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UC students organize fundraiser to benefit pantry

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- University of Charleston students are teaming up with Melody's Manna to help feed folks through the nonprofit mobile food pantry.

A concert is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 13 in Geary Auditorium with 2011 Charleston Teen Idol winner Colton Pack as well as local rock band Time and Distance. Donations will be collected. 

Kelsey Martin, UC senior communications major, said her public relations class has planned the fundraiser to assist Melody's Manna, an organization that feeds the homeless and helps those struggling to stretch paychecks.

"I've seen a lot of people in our area who are homeless," said Martin, who added statistics show 23 percent of low-income families in West Virginia are living below the poverty level.   

Melody's Manna is managed by husband-and-wife team Robert and Debbie Mullins of Cross Lanes. The couple began the Christian food ministry about five years ago when they were living in Charlotte, N.C., and named it after their youngest daughter.

In Charlotte, they went into the streets seeking out the homeless.

"We took our truck and set up tables," Debbie said. "We would line up snacks, fruit, chips and whatever we could get."

Donations from a food bank and various businesses in that area helped with the ministry.

Four years ago, the couple moved to Cross Lanes in order to be closer to family. They have three children and five grandchildren.  Robert, 55, and Debbie, 56, are Charleston natives.

Their regular business is called Can Du, based on the scripture from Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." They are general contractors who do everything from roofing and decks to flooring and kitchens.

"We've been in business 34 years, since we were married," Debbie said. "We are licensed and insured."

Volunteerism is also an important part of their lives.

"We love the Lord," Debbie said. "We just like to feed people. I like gathering stuff and passing it on."

After returning to her home state, she began volunteering at the Nitro Senior Center where she would cook and get to know the seniors. Then she decided to launch Melody's Manna in the Nitro/Cross Lanes area.

She uses her truck to pick up food from Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway and then distributes it to senior centers and a senior apartment complex.

"I pick up bread, pastries or dairy to bring to seniors once a week," said Mullins, who recently had a load of apples. "Seniors take it home and share it."

Aside from the mobile food pantry drive, she coordinates a food and clothing giveaway once every three months at her church, Tabernacle of Praise in Cross Lanes.

"People line up in the parking lot," she said. "Over 300 people come through. Sometimes people come to church because they came to the food giveaway."

She is currently collecting clothing for the next giveaway and especially needs items for children.

She stores what she can in her Cross Lanes home but is hoping for some donated space in a building in her area. She is also hoping for bigger truck.

"The need is growing by leaps and bounds," she said.

She and her husband are assisted in the ministry by her sister, Brenda Walton of Spring Hill.

She is grateful for the upcoming UC fundraiser.

Admission to the upcoming concert will be a donation of clothing, nonperishable food items or money to benefit Melody's Manna. A single person is asked to donate $3, a couple $5, and a family $10. Those who choose to donate food or clothes are asked to bring three of these items.

Contact Kelsey Martin at for more information about the concert and donations on that day. For more information about Melody's Manna, contact Debbie Mullins at 304-553-1074.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.


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