Pastor's moves help food pantry move

PAXTON — Loda United Methodist Church pastor Steve Anderson has made a living in a number of ways and has often used his past experiences as a way to serve others in his current vocation.

A former real estate agent, Anderson’s efforts in helping the Hands of Christ Food Pantry (HCFP) find new digs was a dogged adventure that took him to a variety of sites. But his efforts paid off in a big way, with the HCFP hosting an open house last Saturday in its new location — including a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the facility — with Mayor Bill Ingold and WPXN’s Joel Cluver among those who attended.

In a community with a lot of versatile pastors, Anderson certainly has made his mark in the many things he has done, either through his full-time vocation or some of the other things he has been part of. An outgoing man who is adept at making people feel at ease, he has been a counselor in Iroquois County, has substitute-taught and driven a bus for the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district and has provided countless hours as a volunteer, some via his own church and some as a concerned individual.

Last summer, Anderson spent the better part of two weeks helping construct a home for the Calhoun family in tornado-ravaged Gifford as local churches collaborated for a Habitat for Humanity-sponsored project. This fall, it has been the back of the WPXN-Radio building on Railroad Avenue in Paxton that has benefited from Anderson’s “sweat equity.” Not only did he put in dozens of hours of work to renovate the building for future use as the HCFP, he also coordinated the work of volunteers that assisted on the refurbishing effort.

As a pastor in his eighth year at the Loda United Methodist Church, Anderson has also encouraged his congregation to serve, finding opportunities both locally and outside the area. His church has helped with mission efforts in East St. Louis and Mississippi in recent years, and the Loda United Methodist Church flock is usually involved in any multi-church collaborative works of mercy in the community. A September 5K fundraiser for the HCFP was headed up by the church, and Anderson was there helping direct runners and walkers around the course.

“Pastor Steve has taught us what it means to live your faith,” said HCFP board member and parishioner Beckie Green, who is also Anderson’s secretary at the Loda church. “He has motivated our congregation to work on current community projects and to create new ones. He continually encourages us to help others by reaching out to those in need either as individuals or as a group locally and nationwide. His faith is contagious, and he has certainly helped our church and the community.”

The HCFP story has included a great many catalysts and helpers, with former Paxton United Methodist Church pastor Terry Westerfield, previous HCFP board chair Dawn Thomas, former HCFP directors Don Ward and Barb Cameron and a host of past and present board members and consistent volunteers providing a solid foundation.

The HCFP has wide representation, with board members from six area churches and a handful of congregations assisting at the food pantry each month. Fitton, Langendorf, Jerry Cross, Alynne Galloway, Denise Kunce, Ward and others have provided a steady presence on the food pantry’s serving days over the past years.
Ward, board members Cara Fitton and Debbie Langendorf, Lani Jones and Anderson have been instrumental in leading the HCFP’s envisioning future leadership, along with the transition from the HCFP’s old digs at The Upper Room Bible Church to the WPXN building in mid-November. The HCFP’s initial day serving out of the WPXN building was Nov. 22.

All of those kinds of efforts have been much appreciated, and while the flu bug kept Anderson from attending Saturday’s open house, the appreciation for the pastor’s work the past few months was noted.

Steve Jones, current president of the HCFP board and a pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Paxton, said Anderson headed up the committee to help coordinate moving and refurbishing efforts, adding, “He went over and above the call of duty to help.”

The Hands of Christ Food Pantry has been in existence for more than three years, having opened its doors Dec. 3, 2011, at The Upper Room Bible Church. The HCFP is the only Eastern Illinois Food Bank distributor in the PBL school district. The HCFP is open every Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. and also on the second Tuesday of the month from 4 to 6 p.m. It serves about 100 families monthly.

Anyone interested in contributing items to help the HCFP can drop off non-perishable food items, personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies at the First United Methodist Church of Paxton, Pizza Hut of Paxton, Pro-Type Printing in Paxton, Christ Lutheran High School in Buckley

More about the HCFP can be found by checking the organization’s Facebook page or website, www.handsofchristfoodpantry.comn.

Editor’s note: Craig Pinley is pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Paxton and is a HCFP board member.

Categories (3):News, Religion, Social Services
Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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