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Unity in the Seven Hills, located at 3522 Campbell Ave., received a generous donation from Food Not Bombs — a new refrigerator that will greatly benefit its mission of fostering a healthy community.
Bonnie Black, the board president of Unity in the Seven Hills, expressed gratitude for the contribution, emphasizing the organization’s commitment to promoting both a healthy inner life and a thriving community.
Unity in the Seven Hills is a nonprofit organization that provides essential resources to the community through initiatives such as a food pantry and a little library. It also actively collaborates with other nonprofits and participates in local Pride events, community gatherings and civil action calls, demonstrating its belief in the inherent goodness of all individuals and the power of unity, Black said.
Originally formed as a study group in the 1970s, Unity in the Seven Hills has grown into a vibrant and inclusive community group centered on spiritual growth, education, prayer, heart connection and sacred service. The founders, including Myrtle Fillmore, envisioned a space that would focus on education and prayer without the traditional constraints of a church.
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Food Not Bombs, an organization dedicated to addressing food insecurity and promoting peace, as well as mutual aid and support to the community partnered with Unity in the Seven Hills to donate the much-needed refrigerator, which is housed in a kiosk-style building. The refrigerator was obtained through a donation and subsequently refurbished by Food Not Bombs, which also initiated a regular food-sharing program.
Mariah Molina, an organizer with the Lynchburg chapter of Food Not Bombs, said rather than relying on programs or businesses, the group depends on donations and community involvement. Molina said that the organization’s philosophy is centered on the belief that people should support each other without the need for hierarchical structures or external authorities.
Although the Lynchburg chapter is yet to have an official location, it has been meeting at Miller Park twice a week. During these gatherings, they offer free meals to those in need and distribute various other essential items. Additionally, the chapter has established two community fridges — one at Unity in the Seven Hills and another at the Kemper Street Flea Market. The fridges are accessible 24/7, allowing individuals to donate or take food at their convenience.
The origins of Food Not Bombs trace back to a protest against the prioritization of military spending over meeting the basic needs of people, Molina said. However, the organization has evolved its focus to address broader issues such as poverty, war and police brutality. The Lynchburg chapter, established in 2020, shares these ideals and actively works toward creating a more equitable society while emphasizing nonviolence.
The presence of a significant homeless and impoverished population in Lynchburg necessitates the vital services provided by Food Not Bombs. While some existing programs offer assistance, Molina said there are challenges in accessing them due to limited outreach and cumbersome procedures. In contrast, the Lynchburg chapter proactively reaches out to those in need, making aid accessible and barrier-free.
“If someone needs something, we’ll do what we can to help them,” Molina said. “We don’t ask questions. We just want to be more accessible, and we want to also promote education.”
Looking to the future, Molina and the Lynchburg chapter hope to expand their impact by establishing more community fridges throughout the city which would allow for increased food availability to those who require it.
In the past, Unity in the Seven Hills has struggled with storing produce, often leading to spoilage due to inadequate facilities, Black said. The new refrigerator provides a safe and efficient solution, ensuring that donated produce remains fresh and readily available for community members. The area served by Unity in the Seven Hills greatly benefits from this new resource, as it offers improved access to healthier food options, she said.
“We’re excited about having the option to have good produce in there. And the area is in need of more healthy food options,” she said.
Black said Unity in the Seven Hills is committed to preserving the dignity and privacy of individuals seeking assistance. While attempting to partner with the local food bank, the organization discovered that personal information was required for distribution purposes. To safeguard the privacy of its community, Unity in the Seven Hills decided against this approach. Instead, it relied on the kindness and goodwill of the community, with Food Not Bombs and other local residents generously stocking the refrigerator.
Black said Unity in the Seven Hills believes that through positive actions, such as providing nutritious food and fostering unity, they can inspire peace within their community. The pantry, which initially began as a response to the challenges posed by the pandemic in 2020, has grown into an invaluable resource.
Rachael Smith, (434) 385-5482