Despite an ongoing pandemic, Central and First Farragut United Methodist churches found a way Saturday morning to provide food and school supplies to needy area families.

While in recent years the partnership moved the mobile food pantry to Lenoir City, the event was back in Farragut where it first started.

“It came about because for a while Second Harvest was not allowing mobile pantries in Knox County,” Laura Derr, First Farragut spokeswoman, said. “They’ve changed that policy now, and we still have the partnership, but we felt, ‘Well, this year we’ll do it back at our own place,’ and then, of course, COVID hit.”

Vehicles lined along Kingston Pike early Saturday morning. Drivers pulled in front of the church and stayed in their vehicle as volunteers from both churches placed bags of food and school supplies in the back.

“This year just trying to keep everybody safe, but we wanted to continue to provide this ministry of food to help people during this time of need,” the Rev. Scott Layer, Central UMC pastor, said. “We got special permission to offer this and we’re doing it all outside so that we limit contact and exposure.

“... Jesus told us to love our neighbor, and so one of the ways we love our neighbors is by giving them what they need,” he added. “So I’d say our churches are united with that front.”

In years past, clothing has also been offered, but Betty White, Central UMC spokeswoman, said it was called off due to COVID-19.

“Most everything had to be done outside,” White said. “We packed all of those bags yesterday outside because the pandemic, and they told us we couldn’t be close to each other. ... We’ve had all the sanitizing things, everybody’s wearing masks. We’re just being careful.”

Church representatives did not consider removing school supply distribution, White said.

“Because that is why a lot of people have been coming at this point anyway because it’s time for school,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who can’t afford supplies. So we just decided we didn’t do like we normally do where the church members get it, gave them money and they ordered from like Walmart, I guess, and the people at this church put them all together and they got them all lined up down there.”

Volunteers prepared to feed 250 families, but Derr on Sunday said only 124 families showed up for the distribution. That included 211 adults, 248 children and 90 seniors. She did not know why the number was down. Volunteers also gave out 249 school supply kits.

“In addition to our partnership with Central UMC and Second Harvest, we were blessed with a $1,000 food grant from Bishops Storehouse, an outreach ministry of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” Derr said Sunday. “United Healthcare provided a $500 grant to underwrite the cost of groceries from Second Harvest. Compassion Ministries Inc., which operates out of Cornerstone Church near FFUMC, provided bread, produce and extra soup for the food giveaway.”

Plans are to keep the event at First Farragut UMC, Derr said.

“It’s so much more fun when people can hang out, eat a donut together and shop for clothing,” she said. “But we’ll do what we have to do. I mean that’s the amazing thing that everybody came together to make this work.”