Writer & Photographer / Julie Yates
In the aftermath of the holiday season, most people tend to go back to their busy lives and their normal routines. Unfortunately, for those who deal with making ends meet, the worries of having enough food to put on the table resume. The needs of these families continue, even after the season of giving is over. In the Greenwood community however, the spirit of caring about others never ends as donations from individuals and businesses manage to keep 10 area food pantries stocked with supplies throughout the winter months.
The Need Continues to Increase
The workers and volunteers of area food pantries agree that the need for the services provided by their organizations seems to be increasing. Christ United Methodist Church began a food pantry eight years ago and served about 12 families per week. Now they supply aid to an average of 50 families each week and had to turn 30 away the week before Thanksgiving. Likewise, His Hand Extended, located in the Trinity Broadcasting Network television station, has seen their numbers grow. Station manager Mark Crouch remembers, “In 1989 the food pantry consisted of an emergency box of food kept by the door in case a needy person came looking for assistance. These days, between 600 and 700 people a week are helped and we have had to stop taking people from Marion County in order to make sure they can meet the demands of local residents.”
Ricky Hayes, the social service coordinator Salvation Army, attributes the increase of those needing assistance to many people being out of work for an extended time. He has also seen an increase in single mothers with several children to feed. He related, “I have seen women just break down and cry out of relief that they would be able to feed their kids for a few days.”
Pantries Stocked from Several Places
At least once a week, almost all the food pantries in Greenwood drive a truck to Midwest Food Bank in Indianapolis. This large charitable organization has several locations in the United States. Its mission is to alleviate hunger by distributing foodstuff donations it receives from individual donors, manufacturers, distributors, grocers and food drives to nonprofits who apply to be beneficiaries of its services. Two other Indianapolis agencies that some Greenwood food pantries work with are Gleaners Food Bank and Second Helpings. Gleaners collaborates with businesses such a Kroger and WalMart and maintains a “Fresh Room” stocked with perishable goods that area charities can visit once or twice a week. Second wholesalers also donate perishable food that Helpings distributes. In addition, the food pantries apply for grants, and the two Catholic based pantries, Our Lady of Greenwood and Saints Francis and Claire’s Harvest Food Pantry receive assistance from the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Local businesses such as Little Caesars and Papa John’s also step up to the plate with donations. Food drives sponsored by schools and businesses as well as individual gifts of money and canned goods all aid in keeping the different pantries supplied. Karen Kelley, the volunteer manager at The Social in Greenwood commented, “Sometimes we don’t have a lot, but we give people what we can.”
Maintaining the Dignity
Each food pantry operates slightly differently, but all seek to maintain the dignity of their visitors. While the majority is housed inside the organization that sponsors them, the congregation of Mount Pleasant Church raised enough funds to house their pantry, Bread of Life, in a separate building. There, after a short devotional time, patrons use a point system to choose food in their “shop.” Most of the agencies assign a volunteer to accompany the recipient while they pick out their foodstuffs. These volunteers make suggestions and answer questions that might come up. Nancy Kilroy, the assistant coordinator of the pantry at Our Lady of Greenwood, often supplies printed recipes or suggestions for food substitutions such as Greek yogurt for sour cream. Regardless of the different procedures each maintains, the people who benefit from their services are grateful. As Joseph Wheeler and Donna Meyer were loading their cars at Our Lady of Greenwood, they voiced their thanks. Wheeler, who has been fighting colon cancer for two years, has been unable to work and feeding three teenage boys has been a struggle. Meyer, a single mom with two teenagers, is struggling to get back on her feet after a leg injury forced her to quit working.
Support of the Greenwood Community
Greenwood food pantries agree that without the backing of the community, they would not be able to carry out their mission. Ricky Hayes of the Salvation Army commented, “This could not be done without the support of our area churches.” Agencies interviewed noted that donations from within their individual organizations were the foundation of their charity. Each remarked that while they can never receive enough canned food, things like detergent and person hygiene items are always needed. Finally, of course, without the help of dedicated volunteers, these organizations would not be able to keep serving those needing their assistance in the Greenwood community.
Christ United Methodist Church
8540 South US 31
Gleaners Food Bank
3737 Waldemere Ave., Indianapolis
His Hand Extended
2528 South Greenwood
Mount Pleasant Church Bread of Life
381 North Bluff Road
Our Lady of Greenwood
335 South Meridian
Saints Francis and Claire’s Harvest Food Pantry
5901 Olive Branch Road
Second Helpings, Inc.
1121 Southeastern Ave., Indianapolis
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
1201 Maryland St., Indianapolis
The Social in Greenwood
555 Polk St.