The food Pantry that operates at Stephens City United Methodist Church has been in operation for many years functioning in different ways. It began twenty some years ago by providing food to a handful of families in the Stephens City area. This food was separated and delivered to approximately eight to twelve families once a month.
When the ladies that provided this service gave it up, it then varied from food being passed out by the secretary as people came in and requested it, to another person taking it over and handing out food on a weekly basis, but still on a small scale.
In the past five years it has expanded dramatically by opening its doors to not only those living in Stephens City area, but also to those in Frederick County, Winchester, and Front Royal. We are now serving an average of 50 on daytime hours and 20 on evening hours for a total of 240 families a month. Although we are open every week, families may only visit a food pantry once a month. At present we are open on Tuesday's from 1:00-3:00p and have recently added an evening distribution on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday's from 6:30-8:00p.
Our pantry is unique in that it offers three meats and three cleaning and hygiene items to all families in addition to the many canned and boxed items and seasonal produce. Two of the meats are a choice they can make between several frozen meats while the other is a canned meat. They also have a choice of three cleaning and hygiene items from a list of about fifteen items. Since food stamps cannot be used for anything except food, these items are in high demand. Favorites are laundry detergent, toilet paper, and dish detergent.
Many people from our church are sponsoring food pantry families by providing $15 a month to help purchase meat for a family. We are able to strech these dollars and add more to them to provide three meats a month for all food pantry families. The church sponsors the pantry by offerng the space, providing a van to pick up food, and including it in the budget by giving $2000 towards purchasing food. The costs to run the food pantry is approximately $30,000 a year. The remainder comes in from various local churches, organizations, and individuals by the grace of God. Other organizations such as Curves also do food drives for us as well.
Food Pantry families are treated to coffee, drinks, and snacks while they wait for their orders to be filled. The approximate wait is up to one to one and a half hours. Several times a year a free Bible is offered to the clients and on occassion the pastor comes to talk to the families.
There are 38 people that volunteer on a regular basis to make the food pantry work. Jobs include doing much paperwork, ordering and buying meats and cleaning items, picking up and stocking food, separating many food items, and distribution. Since one of Christ's strongest messages calls us to feed the hungry and help the poor, the food pantry is one of Stephens City United Methodist Church's response to that call. It is apparent that God's Spirit is alive and active in the church as so many people answer His call in this project.