Thanksgiving just got better for 511 Central Alabama families—here’s how


Melanie Siow
RealtySouth’s Melanie Siow at Manna Ministries. Photo via Mack McCollum for Bham Now

November 20, 2021 was the day of the Manna Ministries Thanksgiving giveaway. Volunteers came out on a chilly morning to serve, and, like a well-oiled machine, serve they did. By the end of the day, 511 families went home with chickens, boxes of food for Thanksgiving and more. Keep reading to find out why Melanie Siow of RealtySouth loves being a part of Manna Ministries and how you can support this Central Alabama food distribution ministry.

Meet Manna Ministries

Manna Ministries prayer
Each Saturday morning begins with a prayer. Photo via Mack McCollum for Bham Now

Almost every Saturday for the past 30 years, Manna Ministries has been feeding people. Currently, they feed more than 800 families per month who drive in from Jefferson, Shelby and Chilton Counties.

An affiliate of the Food Bank of Central Alabama, they’ve been running a drive-through operation since the beginning of COVID. On an average week, according to Siow, they serve 300 families.

They are run by a volunteer board, comprised of the following people:

  • Caroline Bullard
  • Sam Charif
  • Joanne Fondren
  • Shannon Johnson
  • Cindy Hilbrich
  • Melanie Siow
  • Pat Taylor

Different groups, including churches, Scouts or groups from nearby Thompson High School come to help. They’ve even had people from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who are on mission from Utah come help.

In addition, volunteers do pickups at local grocery stores as well as the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama.

Each Saturday morning, the basement of the building is full, and by the end of the day, it’s empty—they give away everything.


Who Manna Ministries serves

Manna Ministries Thanksgiving
Volunteers loading up trucks and cars at Manna Ministries. Photo via Mack McCollum for Bham Now

Manna serves families from all over Central Alabama, including Fairfield, Bessemer, Center Point and areas farther afield, including Talladega, Prattville and Greensboro. Each week, new people who’ve never been there come.

According to Siow, recipients rotate in, get on their feet, stop coming, then return as donors once they’re in better shape. The numbers generally stay the same—except for the increase since COVID—but the people change.

All are welcome—no documentation of place of residence or income level required.

Rebecca’s pantry provides food in an emergency

Rebecca's Pantry, Manna Ministries
Feel free to drop off nonperishables and/or books at Rebecca’s Pantry any time. Photo via Mack McCollum for Bham Now

While Manna serves only on Saturdays, there is an emergency pantry outside called Rebecca’s pantry where people can access nonperishables and books 24/7. All are welcome to swing by with donations for this essential service. You just put them in, like a Little Lending Library.


Manna Ministries + their Thanksgiving giveaway

On November 20, Manna gave away 511 Thanksgiving chickens and holiday boxes from the Food Bank of Central Alabama. They plan to do something similar before Christmas.

Manna Ministries Thanksgiving giveaway gives food to those in need
Mr. Clarence Lovett and his cats. Photo via Melanie Siow

Here’s a note they got after this past weekend’s giveaway:

“This is Mr. Clarence Lovett. He is a 86 year old disabled Vietnam veteran. He lives alone with just him and his furry babies. We go to him on a regular/daily basis.

You are what makes a HUGE difference in his life. One of our members goes and picks up on Saturday for him. Then another cooks and prepares his food.

Yesterday, they brought him back a hand knitted toboggan. He cried when it was handed to him, because at night, he said, his ears get cold.

I personally fixed and took his breakfast to him this morning. He slept in his toboggan.

If you ever wonder if what you do really matters, or have some young person wonder if they are making a impact in what they do, I can assure you, YOU DO!!!

You are a blessing in so many peoples lives , especially the ones that can’t even make it out of their bed to tell you themselves.

I pray that God will rain down his Blessings on each and every person that goes out and helps put the boxes together, that gets up early in the morning to help feed those who are hungry. I pray that your Blessings comes by leaps and bounds and more abundantly, than you could ever wished for.”


RealtySouth’s role

Melanie Siow explained that RealtySouth has been supportive of Manna Ministries over the last three years, with agents and affiliates donating enough to cover the Thanksgiving giveaway for the past three years and last year raised enough for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition, the company supported Melanie’s Big Birthday Bash fundraiser, which raised $5000 for Manna Ministries and has donated directly to the food outreach program.

This is just one of the many ways RealtySouth gives back to the community. To get involved with Manna Ministries, follow them on Facebook today.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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