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The North Liberty Community Pantry was dedicated during a ceremony on Sunday, March 17, 2013. Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble told the nearly 200 people that “this is a day of rejoicing…May this place seek to nourish people as all are welcome in this space.”
The North Liberty Community Pantry is a ministry of the First United Methodist Church in that community. The newly opened building stands across a parking lot from the Church, which is pastored by the Rev. Dr. Alecia Williams.
Greg Dils, chairperson of the board of directors of the Community Pantry said, “We’ve been planning for it for several years and fundraising for about a year and a half. We’re at a point where we can serve people in the community out of this building now.”
The Pantry serves the community of North Liberty. In addition, Dils noted, “We also serve a lot of the small towns nearby that don’t have food pantry resources. People can be coming from ten, fifteen or twenty miles away to get their food here.”
It’s an active place. “We serve approximately 1,500-1,600 people” Tina DuBois said. (DuBois, a Licensed Master Social Worker, serves as director of the Pantry.) “We’re at over 5,000 visits for the year,” she continued. “Families can come once a week. On average a given family comes eight times a year. Some people might need us for an extended period of time and then be able to move off.”
The Pantry, which is open four days per week for two to four hours per day, is a substantial building that began as a small closet in the church. Dils described the journey. “It’s really been fast growth over the past fifteen to twenty years. The Community Pantry started as a little closet in the church. About eight to ten years ago we moved it to the pole barn in the back. We had about 500 square feet. We had to have all of our stock and our distribution-everything had to be in that little space. It was great for about the first five years. As the community of North Liberty grew quite substantially we’ve had to expand our services. We quickly outgrew that and so we needed to develop this new building, and have the space for storage and distribution, meeting rooms, and everything else.”
The warehouse section of the Community Pantry is well stocked on high shelves. “We get generous donations from community members. We get support from food drives from local communities and local businesses. We get food from HACAP (Hawkeye Area Community Action Program www.hacap.org) “food reservoir” in Cedar Rapids. We also make purchases from local grocery stores as we need to-if we find ourselves short on meat we go and buy a bulk order-now we have the space to hold it for a month at a time in the freezer,” Dils reported. DuBois added, “Table-to-Table (www.table2table.org) is a great organization in Johnson County that’s a food rescue organization-they go to manufacturers or companies that are overstocked-that’s how we received the whole pallet of cream of mushroom soup.”
People hear about the Community Pantry by word of mouth, through newspapers, press releases, articles, and information shared with other community service organizations in the area.
Greg Dils offered an encouraging word to other congregations that are wondering how to meet the needs in their areas. “Anything’s possible when you have the support of the entire community, whether that’s within the church, other churches in the area, businesses, and individuals. We are blessed to have community-wide support-even the city donates money each year for buying food-it purchased the walk-in freezer that we have here. Getting the wide-reach of support is what has helped us to expand.”
Tina DuBois went even farther. “It takes a leap of faith. You have to commit. You have to see the need and know that it’s going to be there. Early on we didn’t have very much food. Sometimes things didn’t go quite right. God has provided. Everything’s been provided that we’ve needed. You have to take that leap of faith that if we take this next step the support will be there to do it.”
See images of the dedication ceremony and Pantry at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iowaconference/sets/72157633018931411/
Hear a conversation with Greg Dils at: http://www.iaumc.org/audio/detail/131
Hear a conversation with Tina DuBois at: http://www.iaumc.org/audio/detail/132