I went grocery shopping recently and when I came home had to figure out where to put everything I had bought. All of the fresh produce had to fit in the fridge, along with the yogurt, cheese, milk, and other cold foods. The freezer had to be rearranged to hold the chicken, frozen veggies, and such. All of the canned and boxed food had to be organized in my pantry. I have a small kitchen with limited storage space and I have to think ahead when shopping about where to put everything when I get home.
While I was putting everything away I was thinking about our new home at The Pantry. It is sort of like my small kitchen. We have less space now than we used to, by almost 7,000 square feet, so our focus on having healthier items for our neighbors just got even more important. If we have even less room on our shelves and in our warehouse, we have to make sure that what we do keep on hand is the most nutritious options for those who will be coming to receive it. Read full post
On a cold and snowy Saturday morning this winter an email alert came through to my phone. As I read the email alerting me to a recent donation my heart leapt for joy. Someone had given a $2 donation and I was deeply touched by this act of love and generosity. While some may scoff at a $2 donation, it instantly brought to mind the parable of the widow’s offering, found in Mark 12: 41-44. If you are unfamiliar with it, it says:
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Read full post
In Jeremiah 29:11 it says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This new year, we feel like this verse holds so much meaning for The Pantry.
2018 went so quickly and 2019 has so much promise. The Pantry has been blessed tremendously by our supporters in the last year amid a great deal of change. When we announced the need to purchase a new home and move our services, we had donors and volunteers step up to help. As of the end of 2018, over 84% of the funds for our $415,000 goal had been pledged or secured. We are so close to fully funding the Green Apple Initiative and have set a goal to raise the remaining funds by June 30th. Read full post
Have you ever been handed a cup of coffee or a fresh from the oven pizza and been told “Be careful, it’s hot”, then you take a drink or a bite anyhow and quickly regret it? I did that last weekend and burned the roof of my mouth on some hot, melted cheese.
Patience is a virtue, they say, but one that I think many of us, myself especially, can struggle with. Since we provided our last regular services in September and have been waiting for our new space to be remodeled, I have struggled a lot. Nothing seemed to be happening quite fast enough for me and based on the number of people who drop in when they see us in the building, reach out on Facebook, call, or email to learn about our progress, I would guess that this process isn’t happening fast enough for our volunteers, neighbors, and partners in the community either.Read full post
Each year people gather together with family and friends and practice traditions of their faith and their culture. Many of these traditions revolve around food while others revolve around giving gifts. For families who face economic challenges, either of these traditions can place added strain on their already stressful lives. How do you bring together a large gathering of people and feed them all when you already struggle to put food on the table each day? How do you find spare resources to buy gifts for those you love when you wonder each month if there will be enough coming in to cover basic needs?
One tradition in my extended family is to draw names and get a gift for the one person whose name you draw. With their name is a list of the sizes they wear, favorite color, or a store they may really like to shop at. My mom, who had the ability to buy what she wanted throughout the year but remembered what it was like when we did not have enough to eat, decided instead to write the names of charities she wanted a donation to go to in her honor. And just like that, a new tradition was born. Read full post
As seasons transitioned from the warmth and bright sun of summer to the crisp air of autumn, The Pantry faced a big transition as well. Our last services were provided at John Knox Presbyterian Church on Friday, September 28. Throughout that week and weekend we had volunteers helping us pack 33 years’ worth of memories and move. Over 50 volunteers from different organizations helped us as we moved from JKPC. We could not have done this so smoothly without the help of organizations like Cornerstone Church, Ada Christian Schools, East Kentwood High School National Honor Society, Kentwood Rotary, Sole Sisters, Encounter Church, Two Churches, Habitat for Humanity, and the State of Michigan Department of Human Services. The work of so many people made the job seem a lot smaller. We were so overwhelmed with joy at the amount of volunteer support that we could not pick just one Volunteer of the Month for September, and so made a unanimous vote to recognize each and every one as Volunteers of the Month. It truly was a collective effort. Thank you to everyone who came and helped! Read full post
This summer has been hot and dry, but farms and small gardens continue to produce ample amounts of the best foods on Earth! Tomatoes, squash, corn, peppers, cucumbers, and more brighten our day at The Pantry. Each week The Pantry is so blessed to see fresh produce coming through the doors for our neighbors!
Through the partnerships the Fresh Market has with local CSA growers Green Wagon Farms and Chimney Creek Farms we are able to offer locally grown fruits and vegetables at a greatly reduced price to our community. Our Fresh Market hits the road every Friday to visit two nearby apartment complexes helping greater improve access to the fresh, healthy options our neighbors have shared they need. Quite often, we run low on produce like onions, corn, tomatoes, and melon because people just cannot get enough of them! Read full post
We’ve tried a couple of different things over the years: container gardening and community gardening in particular. This year we are going to ‘let the professionals’ handle it. Container gardens will continue to be part of our offerings here, but we are taking a hiatus from the Community Garden as the CSA are more cost-effective.
This spring we will be working directly with Hope Farms (a ministry of Bethlehem Christian Refugee Services). Their CSA Farm hires recently resettled refugees to work on their 5 acre farm, producing quality, weekly produce shares to be sold in the community. The partnership, works for both Hope Farms and The Pantry in a number of ways. Read full post
When The Pantry hired a very part-time social worker in the summer of 2014, believe it or not, there were friends and donors who questioned the need for such a person here. I think, most people have accepted the idea by now, but it is important to articulate why case management is so important. When we brought Stephanie Cuerrier, a health enthusiast and MSW (Master of Social Work) to join our staff, she came to implement our NOW (Nutritional Options for Wellness) program, which has been going gangbusters every since. Additionally, we tasked Stephanie with the broad work of ‘Referrals and Case Management’. Read full post
Wednesday around noon, I had a young woman, not more than 30, come into The Pantry for help. She came with a friend. She lost her job a few months ago, had ‘pounded the pavement’ as the say every day since without success. Her husband abandoned her and the kids, 3 of them, when the house was foreclosed on last month. She and her 3 kids are staying with the friend that brought her. That friend has 4 kids of her own. They were worried what they were going to provide these kids for Thanksgiving. They came into The Pantry for the first time, ashamed and anxious about what they’d find here. After getting her information entered into the database and talking with her about some of the other opportunities in the area she might benefit from using, she went to shop with one of our volunteers. I saw her leaving later, both she and her friend each pushing a full cart of food. As the door was closing, she must have seen that I was smiling at that sight. She left her cart, turned around and ran back in side. She was crying and smiling and I was a little confused at first. Then she threw her arms wide and gave me a warm hug with several whispered thank yous. Some days its easy to remember why I am here.