Forty tons. That’s how much food is distributed by Jacob’s Ladder each month to people in need, and it all started when three men recognized they shared a common goal: to help their struggling neighbors.
Reverend Dr. Frank Lacey of Touch Hearts Christian Center connected with Brian Gillespie and John Roller, both of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at an interfaith dinner held two and a half years ago and have been working together ever since.
The three founders then partnered with Joyce Ammen who works with Operation Care for the Troops. Together this foursome has increased the supply of food donations in the local area more than four times over, their reach now extending from north of Baltimore, Maryland to Orange County, Virginia and beyond.
With their coordinated efforts, donations are solicited from companies such as Amazon Fresh, Costco, Sam’s Club, and local restaurants, and then passed to the local churches for immediate distribution. Amazon Fresh, in particular, has been a huge supporter of the Jacob’s Ladder efforts, providing commercial products this year that are valued in excess of twelve million dollars.
And while ensuring people have food on their tables is central to the Jacob’s Ladder program, it’s also committed to taking these efforts a step further by providing self-reliance courses. The hope is that those receiving assistance can improve their situations so that they can provide for themselves.
The majority of the food donations are handed out through the 22 area churches, who help identify families who would benefit from the program.
Serving the community has not been without its challenges. The rapid growth of fresh food passing through the program resulted in a need to buy a larger truck to accommodate the excess. As Apostle Lacey said, “We have been abundantly blessed.”
An additional influx of food came last month in honor of Juneteenth in the form of a 40,000-pound shipment from Salt Lake City, courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A local company, Labelink in Fredericksburg, assisted in this effort by allowing the use of its warehouse to receive the goods that included staples such as beef stew, pasta, and pancake mix.
Bradley Sant, president of the Stafford Stake of the Church stated, “Joint efforts to provide food and basic needs to members of our community are at the heart of service. As a faith community, we are pleased to come together in unity to serve and love one another.”
In recent months, Jacob’s Ladder has expanded beyond only Christian faiths, the consensus being that regardless of what higher power one believes in, basic needs must be met for all. As John Roller said at the chaplaincy graduation last spring, “We need to bring the faith community together. No matter who you pray to, the focus needs to be to serve one another.”
Brian Gillespie added to that, “To help the community come together. That is the goal.”
In an expansion of Jacob’s Ladder’s mission, it will be taking over the management of the Stafford Food Security program, which provides meals to school-aged children in Stafford County. Backpacks of food are given to those who might not otherwise have food at home so they will have nourishment over the weekends. This addition came about when Tim White, the founder of Stafford Food Security, decided to step down from his managerial role and pass the reins to the Jacob’s Ladder organization.
For more information about Jacob’s Ladder or to donate or volunteer, information can be found on their website: jacobsladder4u.org or by contacting the Touch Heart Center for Development in Stafford, Virginia.
Traci Abramson has written forty-five best-selling novels and is an eight-time Whitney Award winner, including 2017 and 2019 Best Novel of the Year. Look for her interview on the New Dominion Podcast early next week.