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Food pantry has new direction

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CARTHAGE — After months of rough sailing, the Village Ecumenical Ministries Food Pantry is heading in a new direction with expanded hours and new leadership.

In February, longtime director Joyce E. Miller retired. For a short time, Daniel N. Taylor took the reins of the South Washington Street pantry. Following his departure for personal reasons, Dennis E. Richardson and Darlene A. Jensen shared duties as interim co-directors. At Wednesday’s meeting of the organization, it was announced that Mrs. Jensen, along with a group of other volunteers, will take over the leadership of the food pantry.

“I knew I was supposed to,” Mrs. Jensen said. “Everything fell into place. We have a terrific team.”

She said that because the team works so well together, the spirits of the people visiting the pantry are raised and those who are disheartened upon arrival leave smiling. The pantry serves dozens of families a month and now will be open Wednesdays in addition to Mondays and Fridays.

“Our goal is not to just feed the body but to feed the soul,” Mrs. Jensen said.

Mr. Richardson said he was pleased Mrs. Jensen took the position.

The Rev. Edward J. Murphy, president of Village Ecumenical Ministries, who once feared the pantry would close, echoed the others’ feelings.

“What I have asked in prayer is what is happening — we have a team working to feed people body and soul,” the Rev. Mr. Murphy said. “It’s wonderful that all the churches work well together.”

Other members of the leadership team are assistant director Jordanya Reeves, volunteer coordinator Jody Mono and senior volunteer Judy S. Rockwood.

Mrs. Reeves is an Army wife who said she thinks it is great that the community has such a resource to offer those in need.

Ms. Mono said people should consider volunteering at the pantry because it is good for them.

“We have fun and people enjoy coming to help,” she said.

The volunteer coordinator said it does not matter how much time one has to offer, noting that some help out for only two hours each month. She also said there are many jobs that need to be done.

“Come in and we’ll put you somewhere,” Ms. Mono said.

According to the pantry’s volunteer sign-up sheet, people are needed to greet guests, file paperwork, help guests select items, carry supplies, receive food donations, stock shelves, unload the truck, run errands and do housecleaning.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to help in our great community,” Mrs. Rockwood said.

Mr. Richardson, in a report about the food pantry, noted that 38 households were served in March and 52 in April.

“Everything was handled beautifully, even on the busiest day,” Mr. Richardson said, noting that 19 households were served on one day during that two-month period. “That shows how well the pantry is doing.”

Ms. Mono reported the pantry has received 1,613 food items and 129 non-food items, which included donations from the Post Office food drive.

She said that recently Jeanne and Richard Fox celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and in lieu of gifts asked guests to bring donations for the pantry.

Mrs. Mono said there are 20 active volunteers.

Starting this week, the pantry will be open from 5 to 7 Wednesday evenings in addition to Mondays and Fridays, when it is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Our goal is to be open five days a week,” Ms. Mono said.

But the pantry has its own needs, as well. The rear addition needs to be insulated and a floating seal needs to be installed. Locks are needed, windows are in need of repair, electrical outlets need mending and a tub has to be removed. A screen door for the back door, a programmable thermostat, a smaller, more efficient water heater and two air conditioners also are on the wish list.

Pantry members hope volunteers will help.

Since the food pantry is seeking more fresh produce to offer residents, Mrs. Jensen said, she has applied for a grant to acquire a commercial refrigerator.

The organization also is seeking a farmer to periodically dispose of donated food that is outdated and cannot be distributed.

Pantry members said that in addition to nonperishable food, personal care items such as laundry soap, dish soap, diapers, toothpaste and toothbrushes are needed.

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