Church deals with leak amid event

WHEELING — A local church still will distribute food items to those who need them this holiday season, even though the roof of their building needs divine intervention.

The Bethlehem Temple Food Ministries will host its 28th Thanksgiving food basket giveaway beginning at 11 a.m. Nov. 17, with the event currently set to take place at the church’s Dream Center facility nearby at 407 North Main St. in North Wheeling.

The building is used by the church primarily for its food distribution ministries and youth programs, according to the Rev. Darrell Cummings.

A homeless veterans shelter had been housed there, as were several businesses, he said. Rent from the tenants was to be used to pay off the $100,000 loan the church took out to buy the Dream Center.

The tenants now have had to move out of the Dream Center because of the deteriorating roof, and costs to repair the roof have been estimated at more than $100,000.

On Thursday, Cummings was on the phone with contractors seeking to get it patched so the food distribution can take place at the Dream Center. If not, the event could be moved back to the Bethlehem Temple’s basement, where it was based for most of its years.

“We do believe we have it secure enough to continue with our mission, though we have challenges we didn’t have before,” Cummings said. “We still believe the Dream Center is a good deal, and with it we are able to help more people and quicker.”

Prior to the church’s purchase of the Dream Center, those attending the food distribution events at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter times often lined up as far as three blocks outside the Bethlehem Temple in all types of weather. People entered and exited through the same door.

Cummngs said more people can be inside the Dream Center at one time, speeding up the process.

As many as 1,200 have turned out for past food distribution events at the Bethlehem Temple, though he said attendance has varied over the years and been as low as 400.

The Thanksgiving food distribution is open to anyone who is in need, and no identification or proof of need is required. Those coming for the items must bring their own bags or box to transport them.

Attendees will receive free turkeys and supplies for their Thanksgiving meal, including stuffing, corn and green beans. Pastry items also will be available.

In addition to the food, school-age children will be given school supplies, and shoes and winter clothing will be distributed.

“We’re not looking forward to the snow, but we’re getting prepared for it,” he said.

As for the roof, Cummings has faith the issue will be resolved.

“God will help us — he has helped us this far,” he said. “If worst comes to worst, we’ll go back in the church basement again.”