* This article originally appeared in the Charlotte Observer.
The voice coming through the loudspeaker was strong, reassuring and loud. It could be heard throughout York. But who was it? “We want to let the people know they have two friends: Jesus and Restoration Church,” the voice boomed. In an open field south of downtown, Pastor Rodney B. Freeman was preaching. Telling people that we need each other, but most of all we need religion. And after he finished giving out spiritual food, the pastor and his church members lined up to hand out physical nourishment. A large truck full of canned fruits and vegetables, dried pasta, cereal, juice, cookies, toiletries and other goods had arrived from Second Harvest, a food bank in Charlotte. “We get about 300, 350 people each time we do this,” said Freeman, senior pastor Mount Zion Restoration Church in Gastonia and Restoration Church South in York. The church, Freeman said, arranges to donate food in York about every quarter. “It’s a blessing for them to do this, a blessing for the people in the church,” said member Aggie King, who grew up in York but now lives in Charlotte. “We go into the community, hand out fliers, word of mouth. Whatever it takes to let people know about it,” said member Wavey Williams. “And we want people to come to our church service. Come as you are, don’t worry about what you’re wearing. Just come and make a change in your life. We want to help people.” Cheryl Gore said this was her fourth time receiving food from the church. “It’s very good,” Gore said. “Now people get the food and the word.” Restoration Church South meets each Sunday at 2 p.m. at the McCelvey Center on Jefferson Street. They also have a Bible study called the “Power Hour” on Thursdays at 7 p.m. Jean Murray, who was handing out boxes of spaghetti, was the first female member of Restoration Church South. “It gave me what I was looking for. It’s about God, not about man.” Two weeks ago, the church sponsored a “Showtime at the McCelvey” variety show. “We had church members, community members, even the York Community Praise Choir,” Williams said. “The guy who won sang a Josh Turner song.” Even James Brown (played by John Hope) made an appearance. The show was part of the Restoration Church South’s outreach program. The church, through its Save Our Children Youth Academy, offers a summer school program for local children at the McCelvey Center. “It keeps them learning, keeps them ready for school next year,” Murray said.