By Dion Evans,
The Lower Bottoms is the name for a neighborhood in West Oakland that used to be a bustling and financially stable community but is now far different.
However, one institution has remained a beacon of hope through it all, the historic Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
Mt. Zion has gone through a few leadership changes over the last 10 years but seems very confident regarding the newest Senior Pastor of two years – Pastor Michael Wakefield Wallace.
This year, Pastor Wallace led efforts to ensure that residents of the neighborhood around the church facility did not go hungry on Thanksgiving.
“This is our annual community Thanksgiving feast in which we try to serve all the residents of the West Oakland community. Typically we serve between 200-300 families. We also provide them with boxes of food to go,” he said.
As for the “to go” food boxes, volunteer LaDonna Vanderhorst stated, “First they eat, and then they come to get grocery bags to take home with them to feed the rest of their family. In the grocery bags we provide canned goods, onions, potatoes and chicken.”
People were lining up beyond the portals of the church doors to eat and to receive groceries. The volunteer staff, prepared for such a crowd, operated so smoothly that no one was in line for longer than 4 minutes. Attending the feeding were people from a diversity of backgrounds, reflecting the growing diversity of this West Oakland neighborhood.
“Typically we have our food giveaway every Friday,” said Pastor Wallace. “We serve about 140 boxes each Friday and get diverse cultures that come to receive food. We gave the fliers to our neighborhood residents, and they responded by sharing with the general community, and the community showed up.”
Leading the team of volunteers in the kitchen was Mary Johnson. “I am a 90 year old woman and a housewife for over 70 years,” she said. “I raised 4 children and cooked 3 meals per day for them. Now, I’m trying to prepare for the people in our community like I prepare at home, because there is nothing like a healthy meal.”
To find out more about Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 1203 Willow St. in Oakland, or Pastor Michael Wakefield Wallace, visit www.mtzionoakland.com or call (510) 893-2932. To comment on this article, email – Dion Evans at devans@RMGradio.org.