Labor of love: Hartselle feeding ministry endures despite challenges of termites and inflation
By Catherine Godbey
For the Enquirer
Hand-crafted “Thank You” cards written in crayons, a Citizen of the Year award from the Decatur Elks Lodge and a “Change the World” placard pepper the walls and desk in E’dee Grun’s office.
“I was a single mom for so many years. Our weekly grocery budget was $20. I know how it feels to work like crazy and it still isn’t enough to feed your family,” Grun said. “There are so many people struggling. Somebody has to provide help. Sometimes you just have to look at yourself and say I am that someone.”
Seven years ago, Grun founded Feeding Families of Alabama and became that someone for hundreds of families in Morgan County. Every month, the Hartselle-based nonprofit organization provides food for an estimated 300 people.
Feeding Families, she said, is her calling.
“I firmly believe God puts you in places for a reason,” Grun said. “He is the one who put me here. He knew I could deal with all the challenges Feeding Families has faced.”
From the doorway of Grun’s office at Mt. Tabor Church, at 373 Mt. Tabor Road in Hartselle, she can see the latest challenge facing the nonprofit.
The space that once served as the church’s sanctuary has been transformed into a construction zone. The hardwood floors have been ripped off and the wood paneling has been torn from the walls.
“A couple of months back, I noticed the hardwood floors were buckling up and I mean they were buckling up to my knees,” Grun said. “We cut out an area and saw swarms of live termites. The whole floor was covered in them. When I first got in this building, I treated it myself with what you would get at the store. I dug the trench around the building and everything. I had no idea they were here.”
In the past two months, Grun, along with a few volunteers, has torn up the floor, the layer of 1–by–8 boards that ran diagonally beneath it and the layer of 2–by–4 boards that ran crosswise, and removed the tar paper between each layer of flooring.
“I’ve had people ask me, why we don’t just move to another building. We don’t have another building to go to. We don’t have funds to move to another or build another building. Everything I have to pay out for monthly bills or upkeep or maintenance takes away from food,” Grun said.
Most of the hundred-plus-pound pews removed from the sanctuary were returned to the families who gifted them to the church in memory or honor of someone.
“The pews are not coming back in here and we are not putting wood floor back,” Grun said. “There is a concrete slab beneath all of the flooring and our plan is to seal and paint it. We will be able to use the space to better serve the ministry and to also hold events for the community.”
Grun has received some pushback for not restoring the space into a sanctuary.
“This building hasn’t been a church since 2012. I tried to hold services here early on, but hardly anyone came,” Grun said. “I couldn’t get 12 people in that room on a Sunday morning, but on a Monday morning for food distribution day, I could get 200 to 300 people in there. We are doing God’s work.”
Along with the floors, Grun found termite damage on the walls and trails snaking up near the ceiling.
“I am just praying it’s not in the rafters. No one has gone up there to look yet,” Grun said. “If it is damaged, I know it will be expensive and I don’t know how to fix it, but I guess I’ll learn how to do that just as I’ve learned how to do all of the other renovations. The thing is, if it needs to be done and you can’t get somebody to do it, you have to figure it out yourself.”
Grun credited her parents for teaching her about fortitude and determination.
“My whole life, if I hesitated to take something on, my daddy would say, ‘Can’t never could do nothing,’” meaning those that say they can’t will never accomplish anything. “All my life I heard that. It still resonates in my head to this day,” Grun said.
Grun’s parents also instilled in her compassion and concern for others.
“My dad and my mom both were really big on doing things in the community, helping people and doing the right thing. I was so very blessed to be raised by them and to carry on their legacy of helping others through Feeding Families,” Grun said.
Started unofficially in the winter of 2016, Feeding Families began accidentally when a family of four — a man, woman and two children under the age of 7, knocked on the door of Mt. Tabor Church in Hartselle, where Grun served as minister.
“The man had lost his job, missed one paycheck and they were homeless. They asked if I could spare some food for the babies. They didn’t ask for anything for themselves. They came back every night for several weeks. Eventually, the man got a job and an apartment,” Grun said.
Word of the ministry’s outreach spread and continues to spread today.
Each food distribution day, Feeding Families sees new faces.
“With the inflation, we have seen an increase in people coming for the food pantry,” Grun said. “So many of the ones who used to donate, even if it was five cans a month, are now in the line for help. Because of the price of food, they can no longer afford to feed their own families.”
The once-a-month food pantry, which shut down in September because the August event emptied the shelves and because of the renovation, will return in October.
Feeding Families needs volunteers to help continue the renovation of the sanctuary. Upcoming tasks include sanding tar paper from the concrete slab, cleaning, staining and painting the floor, tearing down the paneling and repairing the holes in the concrete walls, replacing the doors, finishing the windows and checking the rafters for termite damage.
“We would love to have some more volunteers. For the most part, it’s been myself and my daughters doing the work,” Grun said. “We do what we can do until we can’t do it anymore and then we got to bed and do it again the next morning.”
Grun is grateful for the support she has received from the community. TDI in Hartselle treated the building for termites twice for free, Corum’s donated sawblades, doors and baseboards and a stranger paid for Grun’s order on a recent trip to Harbor Freight.
“My 12-year-old granddaughter and I went to get safety goggles, knee pads, work gloves and tools. When I got to the register and the cashier asked for my email and I said, ‘email@example.com,’ the lady in line behind me said, ‘I’m paying for this.’ I said, ‘Are you sure?’ She said, ‘Absolutely positive,’” Grun said. “It tickled me that my granddaughter was able to see the kindness that exists in our community.”
Most of the work on the church is taking place on weekdays. Individuals wanting to volunteer or donate to the ministry, can call the office at 256-754-5020, contact Grun on Facebook or watch the Feeding Families of Alabama Facebook page.
“If you’re not experiencing trouble or illness or job loss, it’s very easy to get comfortable and not think about the challenges of others. People are apt to say, ‘It’s not my problem,’ but it should be because you never know when you will be that person in line, or your child or your parents,” Grun said. “There are a lot of different thoughts on how a place like this should be run, with requirements and all that mess. We don’t ask for any proof. Yes, we help by giving away food, but we also help by giving out love.”