Tag Archives: Food Pantry

Just Twelve Items

2 Mar

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

Just twelve items per family. That is all our church food pantry is able to give to families in need and it breaks my heart. And yet, the women and men who come are so darn appreciative of just twelve items. One woman was thrilled to get a dozen eggs. She was wanting to make her family a caramel cake. I asked if she had a recipe for it and she pointed to her head. “It’s all up there, if i can remember it, I haven’t made it in so long.” Eggs are a new addition since I worked in the food pantry last winter and they seem to be a big success.  The face of a child lit up, when he saw the eggs. “We get real eggs!”

My job this week was to greet people, assist them in choosing their items by answering questions, then bagging the groceries up and offering help to their car. I was fascinated watching them make their choices. Some knew exactly what they needed, while others browsed. I enjoyed the woman who was planning meals as she put items on the table. She exceeded the limit on soup, but there was no way I could bring myself to disrupt her plans. Imagine planning your meals for the week around just twelve items.

One of our regular ladies brought someone new. As she was showing her around, she placed an arm on her friend’s shoulder and said, “this is not food from the government, this is food from the people.”  We are a small church and went three years without a permanent pastor and many members left. Last December our food pantry ran out of money and our shelves were bare. We are working hard to connect with business in the community to help us serve our neighbors. Another option is asking friends to consider setting up a food donation box in their workplace. It may not seem like much, but just twelve items make a difference in someone’s life.

I don’t take pictures at the food pantry so I decided to share one of DiVoran’s lovely paintings.


Helping Hands in Hazleton, Pennsylvania

20 Apr

We are pleased to welcome a guest blogger today, Paul Cwalina of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. His church, Grace Fellowship, has an amazing community outreach program . 

Helping Hands in Hazleton, Pennsylvania

by Paul Cwalina

Shake the World

Two years ago, a member of Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who works as a supervisor at a Wal-Mart distribution center, noticed that the center was donating food almost every week to one charity or another on a consistent basis. He saw an opportunity for the church to serve the needy in the community.

With the help of the church deacons and elders, as well as fellow members of the congregation, the first distribution was planned for the first Saturday of the following month. A handmade sign taped to a tomato stake and held up by two cinderblocks was placed at the side of the road in front of the church letting the community know about the event. We had no idea if it was going to be a one-time thing or a sustainable ministry.

Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania

Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania

On that first Saturday, food was set aside at the Wal-Mart distribution center and five volunteers with vans and SUV’s met at the church at 6:00am and made the forty minute trek to pick up the food. The vehicles were jammed with as much of the food that each could hold.

Upon returning to the church, about a dozen volunteers unloaded the vehicles and organized the food, in the church’s basement fellowship hall while members of the community began showing up and sitting in the sanctuary upstairs. Food was placed into cardboard boxes and grocery bags and carried upstairs.

There was little in the way of organization those first couple months. People simply lined up in the lobby of the church and volunteers handed them boxes of food. Seventy hurting families were served that day.

Two years later, there is no longer a need for vans, SUV’s or volunteers to pick up the food. A member of Grace Fellowship Church who owns a trucking company, personally picks up the food with his tractor-trailer and brings it to the church. The handmade sign has been replace with a professionally made banner that is placed on the front of the church. The dozen volunteers waiting at the church has grown to number close to fifty volunteers each month, with half of those volunteers coming from Iglesia Kairos, a Spanish-language church that uses Grace Fellowship’s church or their services.

Semi truck

The number of families served has grown, as well. In August of 2015, the Fish & Loaves ministry served just over 300 families. Since then, the number has averaged near 250 each month. They begin arriving as early as 5:30am, even though the doors don’t open until 7:00am and the food isn’t distributed until 9:15.

While they wait, a deacon leads a Bible Study for nearly two dozen attendees in the church’s conference room, while the rest wait patiently in the sanctuary. While they wait, a member of Grace Fellowship Church delivers the Gospel message from the pulpit followed by a Gospel presentation by a member of Iglesia Kairos.

The ministry has recently begun to expand beyond the walls of the church as two members take the extra food each month and prepare meals for a group of homeless individuals who were found living in the woods just outside of the city.

When the last box of food is assembled and distributed, the volunteers tear down tables and boxes, sweep, mop and clean the fellowship hall, leaving just as it was found at 5:30 that morning. Volunteers leave physically exhausted, but spiritually satisfied.

Thank you for sharing this story, Paul. I love reading stories of communities reaching out to those in need-Onisha

Paul Cwalina was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania and is the grandson of immigrant coalminers. By day, he is a marketing executive, an economics geek, and a politics junkie.

Citing Ernest Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms” as the spark that ignited his desire to write, the author is now turning his long-dormant passion and hobby into a way to tell a story to the world.

“I don’t write ‘comfortable’ stories. I want my readers to be affected and to think; to get out of their comfort zones just a bit. The biggest compliment I receive on ‘Dropping Stones’ is that the story stays with a person long after they’ve read it. To me, that says ‘mission accomplished’.”

Paul lives with his wife and children in Drums, Pennsylvania.

You can check out his novels on Amazon

Connect with Paul on Facebook

…and on Twitter: @PKC1963



Helping Hands in Saint John’s Soup Kitchen, Newark NJ

9 Mar

Helping Hands

Onisha Ellis

Shake the World


I had high hopes that this week I would have a guest blogger to share what their community is doing to lend a helping hand to members of their community. Since that did not materialize, I decided to continue the series by contacting food pantries listed at FoodPantries.org. For today, I found the St. John’s Soup Kitchen through Networked Blogs. Be sure to click the link above for St. Johns’s Soup Kitchen to read the About page. It appears to be a fantastic organization that  offers not only food, but medical care as well and is supported by free will donations.  I reblogged their post from February 12, 2016. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine –Onisha

What Would Jesus Do?

When I awoke this morning and being aware of the frigid temperatures coming upon us this weekend, I could not help thinking about our homeless brothers and sisters on the streets of Newark. As so on as I arrived at St. John’s I noticed our friends bundled up rushing to get their hot chocolate and quickly dispersing into warm shelter (Newark Penn Station). What would Jesus do? I asked myself.  I am sure Jesus would welcome them into his house, so I decided to open our church’s doors and allow them to eat their lunch in Jesus’ house. The staff and I quickly brainstormed how could this work best, and I have to tell you it made my heart happy. If you had been here, your heart would jump with joy as well to see our brothers and sister taking a break from the cold temperatures eating their lunch in a warm place and in good company, even if it was only for a little while. I think Jesus too was very happy to have had them as guests in his house.

Source: News& Events| Saint John’s Soup Kitchen, Newark NJ

If you have a story to share about your community or if you benefitted from a helping hand, I would like to share it. Leave a note in comments and I will contact you.

Helping Hands in Franklin, North Carolina

2 Mar

Helping Hands

30 Hour Famine

Onisha Ellis

On Saturday, we came across helping hands in a surprising place, outside of the Walmart in Franklin, NC. At first I wasn’t sure what the group of teens and adults were doing as I was distracted by the sight of two guys trying to set up a small tent. Now, I know RV folks will often spend the night in a Walmart parking lot and call it Walmart camping, but a tent?  As I drew closer, I saw a table with cans and boxes of food with teens holding up signs stating they were hungry and asking people to donate to the local food pantry, CareNet.  I waved at them and  made a mental promise to stop and drop off food as we left. As I shopped,  I drew on my observations of the items that were popular at Compassion House and avoided green beans and corn. Leaving the Walmart parking lot we dropped off our contributions and were rewarded with big grins and thank yous. As we pulled away, I decided I wanted a picture for this post. Fortunately Rebekah was with me and she agreed to walk over to them and ask to take a picture.

Franklin, NC JPEG

As we drove through downtown and took a few wrong turns we saw two other 30 Hours of Famine drop offs. Now I really wanted to know more. Fortunately, the event had a nice article in the local free paper and explained that the participating youth fast for 30 Hours to experience what the world’s poorest children and families experience everyday. Another benefit is that teens can see firsthand how they can make an impact in people’s lives.

If you would like to read more about 30 Hours of Famine click the link below.

Franklin area students to fight hunger, save lives during 30 Hour Famine

Do you volunteer in a local helping hands capacity or are you part of an organization that does? Leave a comment with permission for me to contact you. I would love to share your story!

Praying for Cranberries

1 Dec
A Few Thoughts
Patricia Franklin
In the crisis center where I volunteer, we are very busy this time of year. Each family or client can receive a food sack once a month and used clothing every other month, i.e., a pair of pants and 2 shirts per person, a coat or pair of shoes once every six months. We can process about 100 or more families through the system in a 3 hour time period. Donations are mostly from churches, local  food stores and people who know why we are here. This organization was started several years ago by a few downtown churches, and has spread throughout the community.  I work at the front counter, where we keep a file on each person or family. Our clientele is steadily growing as the economy worsens and the holidays approach.
There are some very sad cases, many due to health and family problems, some jobless, elderly, homeless, etc.  In my position I don’t always know the details about the client. We have to work pretty fast, so there is not much time for conversation. But once in a while it seems like time stands still for a moment and you are struck by a particular person. For instance the other day a woman came in on a cold day and said she had no sox and asked if she could just have a pair of sox.  She was thrilled when the woman from clothing came out and handed her two pair of used sox.
The other day, a quiet middle-aged man came up to the counter and I asked “How are you today?”  Quietly he answered, “Well, not so good.  Things have been better. My back is bad, my legs…. and lots of things… but I pray a lot.”  Then he stood quietly waiting for me to fill out his paper work.  I said to him, “I’ll pray for you too.”  He started to walk away and suddenly turned back and said “Today I’m praying for cranberries.”  I stopped and looked at him as he walked away and tears came to my eyes as I thought.  “Of all the things that he must need, he simply prayed for cranberries, wanting this simple little thing for himself.” 
I don’t know what he got in his food sack that day, but with a lump in my throat, I went home that day praying with all my heart that he would get his cranberries.
 Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.
Hebrews  13:1-3   The Message
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