The Madison East SDA Food Pantry services anyone who is in need. During these trying times of the “stay at home” mandate because of COVID-19, we really haven’t seen any change in the need. In fact, we have seen a decrease, which we believe is due to the scare of getting the virus. When families do arrive, depending on how many have registered, we either have them wait in their cars or let one individual from each vehicle come in, take a number (pic 1), and sit down six feet apart of course to keep social distancing, until their number is called. Then only one family member is allowed to come in and sign-in (pic 2) and we make sure their information, i.e. family size, names of all adults including incomes coming into the home, names, ages and birthdates of each child, address, and phone number(s), is logged in and up to date. They’re handed a “how to register” card (pic 3) if they’re new and then a volunteer takes them around (pics 4-6) the pantry to help them shop and to count the items to make sure they get their allotted amount for their family size. Pictures 7-11 are of some of our food shelves. Right now, they’re pretty sparse, but somehow, the families always walk away with a good amount of food that’s designed to help supplement their meals for a few days.
We share Jesus every time the opportunity arises, have prayer with them, share lots of smiles, books, Bibles, and literature with those who want them. When we didn’t have the social distancing, we would even hug them. We’ve always tried to be very welcoming. How can you not be when you love Jesus! The church has graciously provided us with a literature rack on the wall just outside the pantry that is stocked with free past lesson studies from Cradle Roll to Adult and Bible study cards. The families are encouraged to help themselves.
Each family is welcome to utilize the pantry once every 30 days, but are told that if they run into a rut and need more before their next allowed visit, they’re welcome to come back the next time we’re open, but then must wait until the following month to come back. Church families are treated a bit different since they help support the pantry in their offerings and donations. Any time a church family needs help, thay can always come to me after church or call me and we’ll make arrangements to meet at the pantry.
Our pantry is open every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month, 4:30-7:00 p.m. Families have to call on the Monday before pantry day between 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. to register (pic 3). That way we make sure we have enough produce, milk, butter, eggs and bread for each family. The remaining items you see on the shelves have been donated by several different groups including, our church family, Pathfinder Club food drives (pic 12), the Condo Association made up of residents of the condominiums next to our church, or from past shopping sprees and ordering online from either Community Action Coalition of Dane County or Second Harvest Food Bank.
We have a lot of return clients even though our shelves aren’t as full as other pantries in the area. They tell us it’s because of the cleanliness of the pantry, but most of all, it’s because of how they’re treated when they come. They have told us the we’re like family to them because of our love, warmth, acceptance and willingness to help them. Even though they’re required to draw a number when they come, it doesn’t mean we treat them like a number. We carry on conversations with them the whole time they’re with us. We try hard, through Jesus’ love, to make them feel as if they’re home. We’ve even had a few throughout the years come and visit church on Sabbath mornings or come to prophecy seminars or Bible studies that we’ve had. One of our most valuable volunteer families even joined the church! They’re still members, but are truly struggling with life and don’t attend church or volunteer anymore. We just keep them in our prayers and visit with them periodically letting them know we still love them, but that Jesus loves them more. We’re even friends with some on Facebook and share Bible studies and Bible verses with them through messenger. Looking back on these past 26+ years that I’ve been director, even though the church has gone through some major renovations and we no longer have the clothing and non-food center, it’s been an amazing adventure and outreach for Jesus!
Thesera Roderick, Madison East SDA Food Pantry Director