Everyday Hero: Lewis uses hands to serve church

Published 12:01am Friday, July 12, 2013

NATCHEZ — When Rose Lewis could no longer work, she decided it was time to go to work using the hands God gave her to help others.

After more than 36 years in the food service industry, Lewis was sidelined by an injury. During that time, she took the opportunity to evaluate what she should do next.

“I have such a personal relationship with my Savior that when I was unable to work, I told Him I wanted to work for Him,” Lewis said.

In her search for God’s work, Lewis didn’t have to look very far; she found it in her church.

Rose Lewis holds one of the hundreds of boxes of food distributed every month through the Pilgrim Baptist Church Food Pantry. The food in the box will go towards feeding some of the 710 people that receive food from the pantry each month. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter \ The Natchez Democrat)
Rose Lewis holds one of the hundreds of boxes of food distributed every month through the Pilgrim Baptist Church Food Pantry. The food in the box will go towards feeding some of the 710 people that receive food from the pantry each month. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter \ The Natchez Democrat)

And for the last two-and-a-half years, Lewis has spent every Thursday morning in the parking lot at Pilgrim Baptist Church, handing out food and serving as the director of the church’s expansive food pantry program, which currently serves more than 700 individuals in 360 family units with boxes of commodities and personal hygiene items.

It was a fit that made sense. Lewis had worked 24 years for Burger King and 12-and-a-half years in food service for the prison system. Many of the practices and procedures for handling food at the pantry are the same as in the food preparation business, and Lewis needed the same certifications from the state to show best practices were being used at the pantry.

But beyond that, Lewis said the pantry gives her an opportunity to both help people and interact with a wide range of the public.

“I worked in customer service for all those years, and I love interacting with people,” she said. “This was the position in the church where I got to talk to people and know people — I really enjoy this.”

And while she’s giving out physical food, Lewis said working with the pantry gives her an opportunity to feast on the wisdom of those whose years have given them great perspective.

“The biggest group of people we serve is the people age 61 and older,” she said. “I enjoy communicating with them, and I feel like I am standing on their shoulders and the years they have worked. A lot of the elderly people have so much wisdom and advice, and that is one thing that I love about this work.”

The Rev. Melvin White, pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church, said Lewis has the perfect temperament for the pantry.

“She is such a public relations person,” White said. “She has a great personality in that she is a people person, and that plays a tremendous part in what she is able to do.”

Beyond that, Lewis has been able to expand the pantry program, White said.

“She has done a tremendous job taking it to the next level,” he said.

But for Lewis, the work isn’t for accolades — it’s all about people.

“It is rewarding to be here, to see these people, to get to talk to them and see them smile,” she said.

Beyond that, Lewis said she seeks to bless those who — often unintentionally — bless her.

“It is my hope that when I am out with my clients, I really hope they can see Jesus in me as I see Him in so many of them,” she said.