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Mother Williams

North Richmond church to give away 1,000 bags of groceries

on September 8, 2011

On any given Friday, Victoria Williams serves up to 100 people at the McGlothen Temple Church of God in Christ. They leave with full bellies and a bag loaded with groceries. The 86 year old, known as “Mother Williams,” has spent every Thursday in the temple’s North Richmond kitchen for nine years, prepping food she collects from the food bank and wherever else she can.

But the temple is busier than usual this week, as Williams has 1,000 bags of food to give away this Friday.

“God gave me the cookin’ ability ,” Williams said standing, surrounded by hundreds of bulky brown-paper bags. “This is all His doing.”

The temple received about 2,000 bags of nonperishable groceries from the Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, a church located in a wealthy suburb about 30 miles southeast of Richmond. That church has been working the past few years to foster a connection with Richmond’s churches by sponsoring leadership and counseling programs in Richmond, said Dick Sanner, associate pastor of missions at the Danville church. A member of the Danville church, Dennis Purpura, visited Williams on a Friday to see her in action, and was deeply impacted by what he saw.

“I’ve been to food kitchens before, but it’d never been this tough. I had a hard time with it,” Purpura said.

Purpura visited a few more times and, with the help of his son, put together a short video profiling Williams’ efforts. The video was shown during three services at the Danville church during a weekend when Williams was present.

“She got a standing ovation, because she is just a very sweet and very determined woman who wanted to do something really good,” Sanner said.

The church decided to dedicate its annual Summer of Hope food drive to Williams, and collected bags donated from Trader Joe’s, Safeway, Lunardi’s and other grocery stores.

Church members collected food over a four-week period, and originally set a goal of collecting 2,500 bags, Sanner said. On the last day of the food drive, the number of bags was closer to 3,000.

“We’re pretty generous, but I was surprised, honestly. We do at least one food drive a year, but this is the biggest that we’ve ever done,” Sanner said. “And I think it particularly had to do with the fact that we’ve become more involved with Richmond—people have become more interested and awed.”

About 1,000 bags of groceries went to Garden of Peace, and the rest went to McGlothen Temple.

“The kindness and generosity of everyone who gave is just overwhelming,” said Elayne Frank, a church member who was helping sort through the thousands of pasta sauces, boxes of cereal and other nonperishables Wednesday afternoon. Frank said she noticed a lot of high-end items that appeared to have been purchased specifically for the cause. Often, food-drive items are taken off the kitchen shelves of those who donate, she said.

“I’ve participated in a lot of canned food drives, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I think they went shopping. It was so nice,” she said. She laughed as she walked down an aisle of bags: “I don’t think I’ve found a single thing in here I wouldn’t eat myself. Except for sardines. I’ll pass on sardines.”

Frank, Williams, and a few other church members organized the food into bags donated by CVS, FoodMaxx and Chevron. By Wednesday early afternoon, the group had barely reached the 200 mark, and were prepared to spend the majority of the following day hustling in the quaint church’s multi-purpose room.

“I have a mission mind and mission heart. I love people,” Williams said warmly. “God put it in my heart to do somethin’ that would help somebody else.”

Bags of groceries will be available to the public from noon to 2 p.m. Friday at the church (1443 Filbert St.). The limit is one bag per person. Community members from Richmond and outside of Richmond are welcome to come to the church on Fridays for a meal and groceries. No sign-ups are necessary.

If you would like to volunteer in Williams’ kitchen, call (510) 232-2055.


  1. Barbara on September 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    What amazing news! Great to know that 1,000 families will be going home with nutritious food.

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