ORLEANS TOWNSHIP — The Shiloh Community Church Food Pantry has been providing food for 20 years, and the need for its services are as important now as when it first opened.
Open every Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the pantry, located at 8197 Heth St. in Orleans Township, offers a variety of foods and other items for families in need.
According to Pantry Coordinator Barb Hardy, an average of about 25 families visit the pantry every week, however, during the months of November and December, as many as 50 families have frequented the pantry in a single day.
“We’re starting to appeal to a lot of people, but if we can afford it, we will keep doing it,” she said. “There is definitely a need. There are people who will come with three families crammed into a car, and sometimes those cars barely look drivable.”
Hardy said as winter temperatures begin to settle in, she expects the large number of families attending the pantry to continue as heating bills increase in combination with other expenditures.
“Heating bills are getting higher because it’s colder, bills are adding up, so we see more and more families this time of year,” she said. “We get families with young children, and many senior citizens who are on fixed incomes.”
Each family is welcome to attend the pantry five times per year, though Hardy said they would never turn anyone away if they absolutely needed assistance.
“We don’t turn anybody away, and if anyone needs anything during the week, we have emergency boxes at the church,” she said.
Those who frequent the pantry are asked to call ahead during the prior week to register. Then on the following Monday, they can attend the pantry and be guided by a volunteer with a shopping cart, making sure they get at least one of item from each food category, ranging from cookies, crackers, pasta, boxed dinners, soup, fruits, vegetables, and a choice of two meats.
Additional items, such as dog and cat food, toilet paper, and soap are also available.
Hardy said the pantry acquires the majority of its food through Feeding America, based in Comstock Park, with donations given by members of the church.
“The people in the church could not go out and buy these items for the prices we get through Feeding America,” she said. “We go to Feeding America every week to restock.
Hardy said she tries to spend less than $200 per week on items from Feeding America, but with 25 to 50 families needing to be fed during the winter months, outside donations are also accepted.
Pantry volunteer Marsha Anthony said she’s witnessed a growth in the number of families needing assistance in recent years.
“There’s a huge need, the people come through, they absolutely need what we give them, and most of them are very grateful,” she said. “Some people are embarrassed also, but they shouldn’t be. We’re just paying it forward, that’s all we’re doing.”
Hardy said the pantry is successful both because of the donations that come from the congregation, as well as the high number of volunteers.
“We have a tremendous number of volunteers. On Thanksgiving, we had 62 that came in to help,” she said. “On a typical Monday, we have about 12 people who regularly come to help out. It’s a great ministry here at Shiloh, it’s never hard to find volunteers.”
During the final Wednesday of each month, a food truck from Feeding America arrives at the church with 1,500 pounds of food.
At 4:30 p.m., families can visit the church to receive items from the truck.
Hardy said they do not limit the number of families that can receive items from the truck, and it doesn’t count against the five visits to the food pantry.
“Every family is going to leave with 10 pounds of food, as it’s expected to feed 150 families,” she said.
The Shiloh Community Church Food Pantry can be reached at (616)-761-3584.