Citrus drive
Ahwatukee Assembly of God volunteer Charlene Croft packs boxes of food for families in need. The local church will be accepting citrus donation on Saturday, Feb. 5 for their food pantry. Travis Roemhild/AFN

Ahwatukee Assembly of God is one of the only churches in Phoenix that offers fresh food to people in need.

Instead of offering only canned food, the local church distributes meat, produce, baked goods and more three days each week for low-income families.

Volunteers are hoping a local citrus drive, organized by the Ahwatukee Lion's Club, will help fill the shelves at the church's food pantry.

Residents with fruit trees who would like to donate are being asked to drop off their excess produce at Ahwatukee Assembly of God, 11832 S Warner-Elliot Loop, this Saturday, Feb. 5. It marks the first time that a large-scale collection has been undertaken for the food pantry in the four years it has been open.

Pam Hahn of the Lion's Club organized the event because she believes that a lot of citrus goes to waste, simply because there is too much.

"I know for me, I can't use all the citrus that grows on the trees in our yard, and I think that goes for a lot of people in the community," Hahn said.

An effort to help people that may not be able to collect their own fruit is under way as well. The Ahwatukee Recreation Center is organizing volunteers to help with the collection.

The food pantry receives donations throughout the year from places such as Fry's and Oroweat. Boxes of food are put together depending on the amount of people in the family. Each box includes a combination of meat products, vegetables, bread, cheese and more.

"It's a blessing," Ahwatukee Assembly of God volunteer Brad Bates said. "We are dedicated to helping people who need assistance."

Bates, who volunteers about 35 hours per week, said when the pantry first opened it served about 30 families per week. Now they are serving that many each day it is open.

"The amount of people we serve has grown a lot, but so has the amount of donations we receive," he said. "We have bought one freezer in here; everything else is donated."

To cope with the increased demand, the area where the food is stored will be moving to a location twice the size.

The citrus drive will take place from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 5. To find out more, contact Hahn at (480) 704-1232 or call the Ahwatukee Assembly of God at (480) 893-6189.

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