Hadley serves God by serving people

Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, November 6, 2012

POPPA JAY displays the store of food distributed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program.

He is known as “Poppa Jay” to all those he so generously serves. He drives into the neighborhoods where he knows people are in need, arriving in the van clearly identified as Immanuel Baptist Church Food Bank. It also bears the names of those who donate products to his mission.

When he opens the tailgate and lifts out the boxes of food, the people come to meet him and help themselves to the food they want.

For four years, Jay Hadley has been picking up food from local restaurants and groceries, such as the food from buffets and delicatessens, repackaging them, refrigerating or freezing them, then driving into low-income neighborhoods where he distributes them to those in need.

RESIDENTS of Riverdell Apartments look over the donated foods brought to them by Hadley.

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According to Hadley, the food is all still good enough to eat. In the case of Pizza Hut and Seminole Wind, the food can only be on the buffet tables and warming tables for 20 minutes, and then must be removed. The businesses refrigerate the food and save it for Hadley, who picks up the food daily. He also picks up baked goods, fried chicken and other items daily from Harvey’s Supermarket. Decatur County Fish Farm donates boxes of frozen fish.

Hadley also runs the local chapter of “Feeding America,” a national organization that distributes food boxes to people in need. Boxes of meats, canned goods and dried staples are distributed as part of the emergency food assistance program to households that must meet low income eligibility criteria.

Thanks to the generosity of Jimmy Ward at Jimmy’s Auto Sales, Hadley has a donated house where he stores the food. Ward also donated the van he uses to transport it.

He rides the roads six days a week, picking up early in the mornings from the businesses and driving into the neighborhoods when there is enough to distribute. He regularly feeds about 450 people per month that way. He notes that contributions are down from what they used to be. He used to make daily neighborhood visits, but now it is more like once a week.

HADLEY helps some residents of the Riverdell Apartments neighborhood package their food selections from those donated by local restaurants and Harveys Supermarket.

Hadley, now 55 years old, said he was saved when he was 36. Now a minister, he does not pastor a church, but had a prison ministry for several years. Then, “I asked God to place me where he could use me, and the next thing I knew I was in the food business,” he said.

Originally affiliated with West Bainbridge Baptist Church, he is now with Immanuel Baptist Church on U.S. Highway 84 West, where Tom Willis is the pastor.