Pastor Belch shows historic photos and documents inside the Assembly of God Church on Lighthouse Road. Photo: C. Leinbach

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By Bailey Herndon

The Ocracoke Assembly of God church has received an anonymous donation of $25,000 to jump-start a fundraising campaign to pay off the mortgage.

Pastor Ivey Belch said $37,854 remains of the mortgage on the building, built in 2004, on Lighthouse Road, and with the donation, the new total is $12,854.

Belch said the donor is challenging the community to join in to get the mortgage paid off by the church’s 80th Anniversary and Homecoming on Sunday, Oct. 21.

“Many think of church just as services, weddings, funerals and such, and although that is important and much-needed within the community there is so much more to be done,” Belch said about the church’s work.

Along with this new fundraising challenge, the church continues to operate and expand the Bread of Life Food Pantry, available to anyone in need, Belch said.

As with every community, Ocracoke has members in need and the local churches help to fill those needs.

“We would like to see more use of the pantry,” Belch said. “We just want people to know it’s available.”

Open from noon to 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday, the pantry is staffed by volunteers, who undergo a bit of training, and it’s all confidential.

Pastor Belch inside the Bread of Life Food Pantry. Later this year, the Assembly of God Church will move the pantry into a separate building. Photo: C. Leinbach

While some islanders may be timid about using the pantry, Belch has his ear to the ground.

“Sometimes we just anonymously deliver food to families who are in need,” Belch said.

Housed inside the church in a former Sunday school classroom, the pantry is like a small grocery store, and carries food, sundries, paper goods, blankets, diapers and more. The church even collects toys for those who have trouble purchasing Christmas items for their kids.

Now the church is stocking the pantry for the winter months and anyone is welcome to donate food of all kinds, sundries or cash to the effort.

“Canned goods are great because they don’t expire quickly,” Belch said.

But the pantry gladly accepts diapers, paper products, toiletries, batteries, blankets and even meat, produce and beverages needing refrigeration.

“The church has a freezer, so we even accept meat,” Belch said. “We use the summertime to really stock up for the winter.”

The church partners with realty companies to encourage visitors to donate their unused and leftover vacation food, and a box on the porch is available around the clock for nonperishable donations.

Belch said the church has plans to install a separate building outside the sanctuary specifically for the pantry and he expects a pre-made building to be delivered sometime in the next few months.

“Having the building outside will be huge,” he said.

For information about the pantry, call Pastor Ivey at 252-928-9001.

The original Assembly of God Church is a rental house on Irvin Garrish Highway. Photo: C. Leinbach

Financial donations for the mortgage pay-off campaign and food pantry can be sent to the church at P.O. Box 68, Ocracoke, NC 27960.

The AOG church began in 1938 on the porch of Elizabeth Styron’s house that was beside the current building. 

They enclosed her porch and built pews from scrap wood from shipwrecks, Belch said.

The first building, completed in 1941, is now a rental house on Irvin Garrish Highway across from the post office.

“My granddaddy, John Thomas O’Neal Sr., built that building,” Belch said. “Elizabeth Styron was my granddad’s grandmother.”

The new building was built by Ely Construction.


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