Ivan Voinsky is an independent truck driver based in Salt Lake City. When he was contacted by a representative from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to make a delivery in his 53-foot tractor-trailer to the church’s 6500 E. Atherton St. location in Long Beach, he assumed he was delivering:
“Bibles. I thought I was delivering a lot of bibles,” he said.
It wasn’t until Voinsky arrived at the LDS location Tuesday that someone told him he was transporting about 40,000 pounds of food that would be delivered to 28 food pantries in churches, community centers, schools and other spots from North Long Beach to downtown Long Beach to Los Alamitos.
“When I got here in the morning, the guy told me what was in the truck,” Voinsky said. “It feels really good to help.”
Voinsky’s truck wasn’t the only one in the parking lot. Another 53-foot trailer, this one owned by the church, carried another 40,000 pounds of food – mostly milk, cheese, meats and turkeys.
The genesis for this particular food delivery program is Pastor Torie Russell of Temple Baptist Church, which has been around for more than 100 years in downtown Long Beach. Russell has been a member of the church 37 years and pastor the last 10 years.
“In 2015, I was invited to Utah and went out to the LDS church and found out we had a lot more in common than we thought,” Russell said. “When I got back from Utah, things were already in motion thanks to my wife, like our backpack giveaway program, which we do every August. We just started to share with whomever is in need. We just answer the call.”
Su Casa is one of the recipients of the 40 tons of food. Located at 3750 E. Anaheim St., the organization helps victims of domestic violence as well as shelters.
“It means a lot to have this service,” said Dean Lockwood, the director of development and community outreach, who was helping put pantry items and dairy products into a van. “We’ve been in contact with the church for about a year, right around the COVID lockdown. They reached out to us and we’ve been willing participants ever since.”
Staci Loveridge, head of the Long Beach church’s communication council, said the food does not come from grocery stores. Instead it comes from the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City.
“We have dairy farms and turkey farms in Utah,” she said, “and we have our own mills that grind the wheat. Some things the church does buy, like cereal. But a lot of it, salsa and apple sauce, for example, is made in Utah and it says on the bottle, ‘Lovingly distributed by the Church of Latter Day Saints.’”
This is the second time this year – the first was in March – that people from the Long Beach East Stakes region have leveraged their 10% tithes and offerings to purchase truckloads of food to feed the hungry in Long Beach. The East Stakes region comprises five Long Beach congregations totaling about 3,500 members.
“We all have something in common,” Loveridge said. “We love our community and we love our people and we want people to have the basics. It’s common ground for people.”
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