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At First Refuge Ministries, a retired teacher from Sanger assists needy people

Debbie Grigsby is making a difference in the lives of others through volunteer work. Grigsby is a 70-year-old retired teacher living in Sanger. As a volunteer for First Refuge Ministries, she helps people by providing people with essential services. First Refuge Ministries is a nonprofit organization in Sanger providing food and services to needy community members.

Every Tuesday at 8 a.m. Grigsby excitedly exits her car to carry heavy boxes of baked goods from Panera Bakery. The entire area is overflowing with the smell of cakes and bread. Employees and volunteers talk about organizing the food items on the shelves, and others bring food from their cars.

She enters the building and starts displaying the bread and pastries on the tables before the people arrive to shop. She likes to organize the food on tables and shelves so people can choose what they need quickly.

Grigsby says, “One of my tasks is to receive the baked goods from Panera Bakery on Wednesday nights for Thursday morning.”

She explains the motivation behind her outstanding work:

“I was previously in education and loved people, and I love to help anyone in need.” Grigsby adds, “When l first went to work, it was the beginning of COVID-19, and we took everyone the same groceries! Now, our patrons can choose what they want besides what they already have at home.”

Josh Medlin, the CEO of First Refuge Ministries, comes to the front of the room. The staff and volunteers gather around him to hear his speech. Medlin begins his speech by thanking the staff and volunteers for what they do and their help to people in need. He reminds them that what they do will help families and people fighting extreme hunger.

Medlin emphasizes, "We have people who suffer from diseases and cannot pay hospital costs, so beneficiaries must be informed that we provide doctors and dentists."

The beneficiaries begin to enter the building. Grigsby welcomes them with a smile and asks them to sign in. They sit down and wait for their turn. The employees start by calling each person to an inner room and praying with them. They also ask about the number of people in their families to determine the appropriate number of supplies.

Grigsby begins serving the first person, Andrew Bell, and asks him to start from the bread section to choose what he likes. Bell suffers from health problems that prevent him from standing and walking correctly. He cannot even push a shopping cart.

Grigsby is concerned about his health condition and tells him to have a seat. She will do the shopping for him and provide the food and supplies he and his family need. Bell stands, stooped in pain, and tells Grigsby, “I thank you for what you are doing for me.”

She puts enough food for the man in his cart, and the volunteers put the items into bags and in the man's car.

Grigsby returns to the patrons’ lounge to serve someone else and sees Wilson waiting his turn.

“Wilson always bakes homemade cakes as a genuine thank you for our support and devotion,” Grigsby says.

Wilson’s concept of reciprocity—giving to those who give—is a lovely reminder of how intertwined a society is. It’s not only about the food he gets. It’s also about the friendships he’s built and the sense of community he's discovered at the Food Pantry Bank.

Grigsby says, “The people come in and are so thankful for what they get to pick out. The kids’ eyes light up when they get to pick out their cookies and cereal! Many families would go hungry if it weren't for us.”


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