Church’s little free pantry, garden, and garage sale inspire the need to open a thrift store in Delhi, Iowa

Church’s little free pantry, garden, and garage sale inspire the need to open a thrift store in Delhi, Iowa

September 05, 2022

From a small garden to a Main Street thrift store, the Delhi United Methodist Church members own the mission and call that God gave them and live it faithfully in their community.

It all started a few years ago when the Delhi United Methodist Church stepped up in faith and partnered with the local high school agriculture and Future Farmers of America program to put in a 50 by 50-foot community garden on church property to help feed the food insecure in Delaware County. After the summer ended, with nearly everything the garden produced given away, they realized they had helped provide for hundreds and how great the need was in their community. 

“The following year, a church member bought some land across the street from the parsonage that gave us another 100 by 50-foot plot to double the size of the garden. And again, we fed hundreds of people through that garden, and both of those continue today,” said Reverend Keith Pitts, pastor for Delhi and Buck Creek United Methodist Churches.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, church member Sheryll Schnittjer approached Pitts about starting a food pantry in town. It was presented to the church administrative council and was overwhelmingly approved. 

“The food pantry has always been a passion of mine. I wanted a food pantry for years, and I went to Pastor Keith and asked him what he thought, and he said, ‘make it happen.’ We built a little pantry on the west side of town and put it in conjunction with the community garden. It’s been phenomenal. We’ve probably put something inside it every day,” said Schnittjer.

People visit the little free pantry day and night and take from what is there. Other communities and church members donate products to it as well.

“My husband and I had a garage sale about a year ago in the church basement, and we were overwhelmed with the stuff that was donated and with the generosity of people just giving a free-will donation for items,” said Susan Button, church member and a part of the thrift store team. 

Schnittjer and Button had both been thinking about a thrift store and how the church could support those in need in the community.

“Sheryll mentioned to me that she had been talking about it, and I said, ‘Oh, that’s funny because we had talked about it too!” said Button. “So Sheryll went to Keith, and everything started rolling from there.”

Button said that they formed the committee, and everybody volunteered to help in areas in which they are gifted. Button is a volunteer coordinator for the West Delaware school district and, before that, a hospital volunteer. She now does the volunteer coordinating for the thrift store.

“When I was little, my mom shopped at a thrift store, and there were six of us, so we needed to,” said Schnittjer. “I think it’s good for people to be kind to our environment and not put everything in the landfill. It’s a good way to reuse and repurpose, and it’s economical for families on a budget and during these difficult times.”

The Thrift Store has had a fantastic amount of foot traffic, and community support that the church never thought was possible.

“The vision of this thrift store is to be part of the Delhi community and to meet real needs for real people who are loved and help them in the midst of that and to let them know that God loves them and that God’s grace abounds in their lives and we are here to love and care for them,” said Pitts.