2011-12-15 / Front Page

Rock Hill launches monthly food pantry

BY CHAD WILSON

There is a need in Henderson County and Rock Hill Baptist Church is on a mission to meet the need of hundreds of hungry people.

Starting this Saturday, Dec. 17, the church is opening the doors on a food pantry that will serve all of Henderson County at least once a month.

After three months of self-support to prove the organi- zation is fully invested in the pantry for the long haul, it will partner with the East Texas Food Bank. By partnering with the food bank RHBC will be able to purchase food for 19 cents per pound, including meat. Items such as produce, desserts and bread are free from bank.

In turn, Rock Hill will be open from noon until 3 p.m. the third Saturday of every month, allowing those in need to come and pick out the foods they want free of charge.

After running a soup kitchen for several years, Mary Lou Jennings had the desire to open a food pantry and approached RHBC pastor Robert Welch with the idea.

Welch and the church jumped on board with it and after months of planning the church is ready to help anyone in need.

“This will be a great outreach tool for the church. When people come in, our people will have a chance to minister to them and make them feel at home here,” Jennings said. “In the Book of Matthew it tells you we are to minister and it is not right to turn away people who are hungry. Jesus says if you do it to the least of these people you are doing unto me. Those verses for me are important and it is clear that is what we are supposed to do.”

While the move to leading a food pantry is relatively new for Jennings, she has plenty of experience after working with Calvary Baptist Church in Brownsboro and its pantry while also visiting other successful pantries throughout the area.

“I have gone to other food pantries that are in operation, since I have not run a food pantry before, to see how they did it,” she said. “My husband and I worked with Calvary Baptist Church for about a year or so before it closed.”

By working with Calvary Baptist and visiting other pantries Jennings has been able to take away good ideas from them while also learning what not to do.

One of the plans she has is to make sure all those in need have a climatecontrolled waiting area instead of waiting in long lines, sometimes for hours, outdoors.

“I have seen people wait outdoors for hours, regardless of what it was like outside,” she said.

The church plans to have each individual, or family, who requests food fill out paperwork to determine the amount of food needed for the family. The panty is open to everyone in the county but the paperwork will allow the church to better serve the family’s needs.

One of the ways Jennings expects to serve the community in a more organized fashion is to start the Client Choice program with food distribution.

“We want to give people an option of what foods they want instead of just handing them a bag or box full of random items,” she said. “Just because you need food doesn’t mean you do not have likes and dislikes. Being able to choose from what we have will make the food received more beneficial for families.”

While working with Calvary Baptist in Brownsboro Jennings saw first hand the need of area residents. The pantry averaged more than 200 visitors each time the doors were opened, she said.

“If someone is in need, the first place they should think about going is the church,” Jennings said. “The church should be the refuge for people who are in need. Even in biblical times it was that way. It should be that way today. This church is open every day of the week and for those people who are in need, we are here for them.”

As the pantry grows Jennings also plans to start a clothing store for families with young children.

She encourages young families with children who go through clothes quickly to donate them to the church so they can go to someone else who is in need of clothes. Recipient families would go through the same process with application as food pantry.

“People from other churches who want to get involved with this ministry, just like we were helping Calvary, are welcome to. You do not have to be a member to help,” she said. “People who want to be a part of this ministry, or donate to it, are encouraged to contact the church.”

For more information on the food pantry contact Rock Hill Baptist Church at 903-852-6711.

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