NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Rows of canned goods, bread, juice and other non-perishable items lined the tables in a room at the rear of Trinity United Methodist Church Saturday as volunteers awaited the arrival of family members of those who have served or are serving in the military.
But don’t think for a second this church is running this program, which is called the Armed Service Assistance Program, or ASAP, just because it’s the holidays.
“We send our men overseas. Nobody took into account the families,” said Gertrude Barnes, committee head of ASAP. “Some of the families got their income down to one half or one-third of what was being brought in.”
Thus began the program, which started 11 years ago. The program’s mission is to provide aid to veterans and their families. The church welcomes the families on the last Saturday of every month except November and December when they move the pick-up day to before the holidays.
On average, the church spends about $1,100 monthly on groceries for the 30 families it serves, Barnes said.
“A lot of them are really appreciative,” she said of the receiving families. “You can hear all kinds of horror stories.”
Barnes said the program started when a woman 11 years ago was at the church weeping because no one had helped her family for 18 months while her husband was sent overseas.
“For 18 months, nobody had helped her but us,” Barnes said. “We were the first. With hope, more churches will start doing this.”
And the stories go on, including a man and woman living off of $300 per month, and a family of six living off $5,000 per year.
“How many people know that your military today is getting shafted? Majorly,” Barnes said.
With the help of donors from the church, the local Rolling Thunder chapter and the American Legion in Little River, ASAP is able to assist military families from throughout the Grand Strand.
“We help any of the military, no matter when they served our country,” Barnes said. “You’re helping the men and women who served our country, no matter when.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.