Churches to open new food pantry in Paxton

PAXTON — Seeing a need to create one more resource for feeding the hungry, local churches are combining efforts to start a new food pantry in Paxton.

The Hands of Christ Food Pantry is tentatively scheduled to open Saturday, Oct. 15. It will be operated out of the Upper Room Bible Church, 425 W. Orleans St.

“To me, it’s an exciting option that will supplement services that are already provided in Paxton,” said the Rev. Craig Pinley of the Evangelical Covenant Church, one of eight local churches involved.

Two food pantries already serve the community — the PBL Community Area Food Pantry, located on South Vermilion Street, and a food pantry operated out of Full Gospel Christian Fellowship Church, located on South Railroad Avenue.

However, given the need that is apparent in the community, members of local churches decided that it could not hurt to start the new food pantry to supplement the resources already available.

“It’s a more-the-merrier type of situation,” Pinley said. “Having other options is a good thing.”

“We’re just providing additional resources,” added the Rev. Terry Westerfield of the First United Methodist Church.

Westerfield said the Hands of Christ Food Pantry will initially serve the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district, but within a year it is hoped that it will serve all of Ford County. Westerfield said having a countywide food pantry is a requirement of receiving government commodities.

The pantry will initially be open on one Saturday per month, Westerfield said. But within a year, church members hope to have it open weekly — which is another requirement of receiving government commodities, Westerfield noted.

The food pantry is expected to receive commodities from the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, based in Urbana, which means the churches can buy the food at a much lower cost.

“I’m really excited that the Eastern Illinois Foodbank will be able to provide resources for the needy people in Paxton and area,” Westerfield said. “This is food that comes for cents on the pound. It’s a lot of food for cheap, and it’s quality food.”

The churches running the food pantry will be seeking funding from area churches or organizations, as well as individuals and businesses, to buy the food from the foodbank, Westerfield said.

The food pantry will be overseen by a board of directors, comprised of representatives of the eight churches involved.

“The board will be setting the policies and procedures for the food pantry, and they will have supervision over a volunteer administrator who will be responsible for the day-to-day operations,” Westerfield said.

The board is currently seeking to find an administrator, Westerfield said. Meanwhile, members of any churches in Paxton who want to help with the food pantry can do so by volunteering to help staff it or fund it, Westerfield said.

A subcommittee of the food pantry board is currently working to get volunteer staff lined up. Meanwhile, monetary donations to be used to buy food can be sent to the First United Methodist Church, c/o “Hands of Christ Food Pantry.”

The First United Methodist Church is providing the liability insurance and tax-exempt status for the food pantry, Westerfield said. The United Methodist Church has also set up a mission fund to help with start-up costs.

Westerfield, who was one of the lead organizers of the food pantry, said he noticed a need for another resource for the needy in Paxton when the Paxton Area Ministerial Association, which is comprised of 11 churches in Paxton and one in Loda, conducts its annual Christmas food-voucher program for the needy.

Some 50 to 70 families are served each December through the program, Pinley said.

Also, Pinley said, about 40 percent of students at Clara Peterson Elementary School in Paxton receive free or reduced-price lunches.

Families using the food pantry will be limited to one visit per month; however, if needed, they will be allowed a second visit in a single month once per year.

The food pantry’s board of directors is comprised of members of the Evangelical Covenant Church, First Lutheran Church, First United Methodist Church, Full Gospel Christian Fellowship, Loda United Methodist Church, Upper Room Bible Church, The Vineyard Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church

Categories (3):News, Religion, Social Services

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