Several volunteers gathered Friday evening and one by one filled boxes of food that were distributed the next morning to passing drivers who lined streets at Sixth Avenue Church of God in Lenoir City.

The church for more than a decade has offered assistance that started as Blessing Boxes for Christmas.

“I’m proud that we’ve been able to consistently do this and minister to the community,” the Rev. Ernie Varner, pastor, said. “I’m thankful for the people of the church for support financially and with their help doing this. It takes quite a bit of people.”

Sixth Avenue typically receives food from Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee six times per year to give out, but this time the church is holding five distributions to make way for a new effort in December to deliver gifts to single parents and their children.

On Saturday, 10,375 pounds made into 144 units — two boxes per unit — were given away.

Volunteer Dan Waggoner helped sort food when it arrived Friday morning. On Saturday, he helped roll carts outside and placed boxes into vehicles.

“It’s one of the ways of giving back to the community and helping people there in need,” Waggoner said. “That’s the thing about it, I was an educator and taught school for years, my wife was too, and it’s just another way of giving back to the community because there’s people that literally have come that I went to high school with that were in need years ago.”

Waggoner and his wife, Audrey, have helped with the food ministry for six years since moving back to Lenoir City.

“Jesus says you’re always going to have the poor with you, and we need to take care of the poor, and that’s just part of ministry is taking care of people who are having a hard time,” he said. “I know we have people that come through they’ve gone through chemo, they’ve just had a real rough time. That’s just the way of blessing them to help them out financially by giving them food.”

The Rev. Justin Wright, youth pastor, helped box items Friday.

“At the church we believe in community outreach,” he said. “We believe God has called the church to reach our community, to reach people in need, and so this is just part of that vision in what God has called us to be is a church that reaches the need of people around us.”

The final food giveaway for this year will be in October, Varner said.

He said there is a need for the planned December outreach.

“Sometimes they get left out, especially if they’re single, they don’t have a spouse to buy them something,” Varner said. “So we’re going to bring them in and feed them lunch here at the church that day and then let them get a gift.”