ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - For the first time in more than six decades, the Roanoke Rescue Mission will begin distributing food boxes to more than 800 families a week.
This comes after a merger the valley's largest food distributor for the working poor.
Manna Ministry leaders approached the Mission late last year when Parkway Wesleyan Church, which started Manna in Vinton 15 years ago, decided to phase out the program due to increasing costs.
"We're excited now," says Parkway Wesleyan Pastor John Ott, "about the potential Manna has to go to a whole new level with the resources of the Rescue Mission."
Even though the financial burden of feeding hundreds of needy families each week became too great, the need to keep it open was greater.
"When you see those lines, and you see it going around the corner and you see those single moms carrying out their packages; closing it down wasn't an option," Ott said.
Ott says with intermittent corporate sponsorships donation shortages and the rising cost of food has made keeping the doors open here difficult.
The merge means that Manna is joining with a facility that comes with five thousand volunteers, and sixty seven years of experience helping those who need it most.
Tracy Altizer, Mission Development Director says the organizations goal is the same.
"Right now the Rescue Mission is already serving some of the same people that Manna serves," Altizer said.
Pastor Ott says it's a match made in heaven.
"Our purpose just seems to fit like a glove with their purpose."
With the merger, not only will manna ministries survive, they'll expand. The facility at the Roanoke Rescue Mission will provide a kitchen to provide hot meals, more space for grocery and clothing distribution the possibility of another distribution day a week.
Before, manna could only open up on Thursdays.
Altizer says once the transition is complete April 1, distribution will switch to Saturday mornings, with the first distribution at the Rescue Mission set for April 4.
"We'll have volunteers all week long," Altizer said.
Tracy Altizer with Roanoke Rescue Mission says the merger will strengthen both charities.
"This is a natural fit for us," Altizer said. "We want to make sure that no one is homeless. We operate the shelter here with the goal of getting people into homes. This is one way we can help people who are already in homes, be able to stay in them."
Together Manna Mission Ministries will be able to provide more than ever.