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IMG 2340UP“Reaching In” to Diverse City Neighborhoods:
Asbury First’s Grocery Bag Ministry Outreach Program, Alleviating Hunger for Almost a Decade by Serving Through Our Valued Partners on the Front Lines of Hunger!

Addressing a group of young students, the world-renowned humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer once said, “I don’t know what your destiny is or will be, but one thing I do know is the ones among you who will be really happy, are those who have found a way to serve.”

Hunger is closer than you think. One in six Americans struggles with hunger. Asbury First’s Grocery Bag Ministry (GBM) has been in service for more than nine years and has distributed thousands of grocery bags of food from the caring Asbury First community by “reaching in" to our partner churches and refugees filling real needs!

We thought we would ask the leaders of our partner churches and refugees, the distributors and recipients of Asbury First’s caring outreach, in their own words, what our ministry means to their flocks. Their thoughts reflect the true result of the GBM’s nine years of “reaching in” deep into challenged neighborhoods through these lighthouses of hope, our valued and respected partners.

From Bishop David J. Singleton and the Ark of Jesus Ministries (506 Jay St. Rochester, NY 14603):

“Dear Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady  II and Asbury First United Methodist Church Congregation.

The members of Ark of Jesus Ministries greatly appreciate your Grocery Bag Ministry. It has not only been a blessing, but it has also been the answer to some people’s prayers. So for that, we are thankful and grateful to God for your ministry. Only the Lord knows the depths to which your acts of kindness have reached. Now, may the kindness you have shown be returned to you again and again in our prayers.
In service to the King of Kings,
Bishop David J. Singleton and Ark of Jesus Ministries.”


Another one of our valued partners on the front lines of hunger, Baber African Methodist Episcopal Church (550 Meigs St. Rochester, NY 14607) led by the Rev. James C. Simmons, Pastor, has Betty Crews, the Missionary President saying in part:

“Our church is very proud to be part of this ministry. The recipients that receive the grocery bags from Asbury First United Methodist Church are very grateful for the bags. They always express how much the bags help them through the month and especially over the years. We at Baber thank Asbury First for your dedicated service to our community.”

Our friends at PowerHouse Church of God in Christ (48 Clifton St. Rochester, NY 14608), led by Bishop Jeffery L. Melvin, Pastor, has Reverend Fannie Ethridge-Reeves, Outreach Minister, saying from their hearts:

“On behalf of PowerHouse Church of God in Christ, we would like to thank the Asbury First United Methodist Church’s Grocery Bag Ministry for supporting our Outreach Ministry. Over the years, your group has supported us by providing grocery bags to our congregation. Your donations make it possible for us to provide food to needy families in our congregation and the surrounding neighborhood.

Since the beginning of our relationship, Asbury First not only provided physical food but has provided spiritual enrichment through prayer and fellowship. We especially enjoyed the time that we participated in your Sunday worship service. We look forward to continuing our connection and welcome you to join us at PowerHouse for a Sunday worship service. Once again, thank you for your generous support. We are grateful for the fellowship and the food contributions you provide for our families, friends, and neighbors.
In God’s service, I remain,
Reverend Fannie”


Another point of light GBM partner  is Light of the World Church (200 Child St. Rochester, NY 14611), led by Senior Pastor Ruben Serrano, and these kind words from Outreach Pastor Zenaida Sosa:

“Light of the World Church is a multicultural congregation located in the northwest quadrant of the City in the 10th Ward. We would like to express our gratitude to Asbury First for the food donations we have been receiving. Families have been blessed with this gesture of love and compassion meeting their needs. Thanks very much for your love, dedication, and your time.
May the Lord bestow and multiply abundant blessing to Asbury First and all who are involved in this ministry.
Thanks again, and we are very grateful, praying for one another,
Pastor Zenaida Sosa”


Our recent refugees and Cindy Malone, Refugees Coordinator for No One Left Behind, have these words to say in part about their connection to Asbury First’s GBM

“The Rochester, NY Chapter of No One Left Behind (NOLB) is dedicated to ensuring that Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and support personnel who worked side by side with our American troops and are now targets of the Taliban and ISIL in their own country are able to safely resettle in the Western NY region.

One thing that many families struggle with is having enough money to put food on their tables. With the help of the Asbury First GBM, NOLB is able to supply food to new families that have just arrived, and whose food benefits haven’t yet started.
These supplemental groceries provided by Asbury First GBM make a meaningful and substantial difference in the lives of the families that I encounter. The children always greet me with big smiles as Asbury First almost always includes either cookies or pretzels for their enjoyment. But what is most telling is that as I approach these homes carrying onions, potatoes, and other items that can offer some supplemental nutritional substance, I can see the look of relief on the parents faces. They know that their children will not go to bed hungry, and that feeling of relief is a direct result of the impact that Asbury First’s GBM has made in their lives. With the support of the GBM, we are better equipped to help circumvent some of the challenges that these brave families face as they begin their new lives in our community.”


Cindy Malone wants you to know that NOLB is a non-profit 501(c)(3)organization. All donations are tax deductible and go directly toward helping the interpreters in our region.

One of our beloved long-time stewards working with GBM is Edna Craven, Outreach Coordinator for Antioch Baptist Church (304 Joseph Ave. Rochester, NY 14605), led by Senior Pastor Reverend James L. Cherry Jr., and Edna  says in part:

“The GBM serves the senior citizens, and we thank you for your dedication to serving individuals less fortunate than yourself. The food bags are greatly appreciated. The recipients of the bags would like to thank Bill Lisi and Asbury First at large for their kindness. Without your generosity and kindness, these blessings would not happen. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.”


Pastor Mary Lee Robinson of the Miracle Outreach Church of God, in the Otis Street area, a long-time partner with Asbury First’s GBM says:

“Dear Asbury First,
On behalf of all of us at Miracle Outreach Church of God, thank you for your generous food donations. The food you donated has made a positive difference in the Rochester, NY area. The donations have helped eliminate food insecurity for families in crisis and we are so grateful for your support.
Thank you again for your commitment to our community. We have been receiving assistance from Asbury First’s GBM since 2009.”


Thanks to the faithful coordination of Mother Hughes over the years, Asbury First has formed a lasting and continuing partnership with Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church,  (250 Dr. Samuel McCree Way, Rochester, NY 14611), led by Rev. Dr. Richard Douglass. Mother Hughes has recently turned over her responsibilities to Sister Charlaine Anderson, Food Pantry Coordinator, who says:

“A partnership between Asbury First and Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church is committed to connecting families to Christ through Fellowship, Leadership, Outreach, and Worship.
The Food Pantry is one of our outreach ministries. The Zion Hill Food Pantry is free and open to the community and surrounding area 12 months out of the year.
Our partnership with Asbury First helps us to serve over 200 families per month through their generous food donations.
Asbury First donates grocery bags of wholesome foods for families who sign up on a first-come-first-serve basis. These bags are a welcome blessing to our feeding the hungry efforts because there is a growing need among senior citizens, single parents, and college students in our community. In addition, there has been an influx of persons from Puerto Rico due to the last hurricane, who frequent our pantry. The smiles and appreciation we see upon receipt of the food is truly rewarding.
The food donations from the GBM is a Godsend in helping us to serve our community members in a time of great need. We are forever grateful and look forward to a continued partnership.”


West Ave Methodist Church, which the GBM has served for its entire nine years, through Thelma Brown, Outreach Coordinator, expresses her appreciation of Asbury First’s support. We would be delivering grocery bags through the church’s doors on West Ave while numerous recipients would be waiting outside on the Chili Ave. doors of the church. Need and hunger, up close and personal.

Service, Partnership, Filling Great Need: Asbury First’s Grocery Bag Ministry “Reaching In” to Help!

Your food donations and funding for continuing the GBM are always a big challenge and you and the Asbury First community can always be part of our efforts at “reaching in” to our partner churches and refugees. A sincere thank you to all who have donated food items and funds over the past decade. You have sustained our efforts in service!

A food donation is always appreciated! You may leave your gift in the outreach box in the Welcome Hall near the coat racks. No matter how small the donation is, it has a great impact on our recipients as you can see from the comments included above.

Tuna, jams, peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauce, canned fruits, canned vegetables, rice, soups, and donations of your time as a volunteer are wonderful gifts to help us fulfill our continuing mission of “reaching in.” We also include in each donated grocery bag a dozen eggs and a fresh loaf of bread.

On a personal note, as my beloved Maxine and myself have recently faced some challenges of aging, I offer a great big “thank you” to all Asbury First Grocery Bag Ministry volunteers over the past decade. I also want to especially thank your current loyal volunteers who have, in my absence, persevered and stepped up to faithfully carry forward the GBM as we head toward our second decade of service.

Joe and Janice Cygan have taken a leadership role, ably supported by Jim Reed, Jim Carter, Cindy Malone, Pat Schwar, George Albright, and Bob Castle, behind the scenes, ensuring the GBM is ready to perform our mission every third Saturday morning of each month.

Our invaluable  GBM “baggers” are equally important in completing each and every full grocery bag that goes out the Asbury First doors to our partners, who are points of hope and light in City neighborhoods facing many, many challenges. Thank you to Betty Stewart, Richard Irvin, Gene and June Walters, Beth Woolover, Mason Fitch, Eugene Fisher, Edie Reinhard, Bob and Bev Schuman, Bill Masters, Ling Xiang, Jeanne Rowe, Don and Jan Anderson, Fred and Carolyn Hamil, and Tiayi (Emily) Yuan.

Through the GBM and all the caring Asbury First Outreach Programs, we have all been “reaching in" deep, to our sisters and brothers in areas of our City most in need of our caring and compassion.

A mountaintop experience is found in a heart given over to the service of God to fellow human beings.

Blessings to all,
Bill Lisi