By Sandy Clingenpeel
In early 2012, members of Trinity UMC were participating in a food drive for one of the Food Banks. After having so much fun with it, Pastor David called a few of us together to discuss a new ministry that could potentially center on food.
Eager to help and serve those in need, we decided to learn a little more about poverty before diving right in. So, we did a book study “What Every Church Member Should Know about Poverty,” by Bill Ehlig and Ruby K Payne. Needless to say, our study revealed a lot about both sides of poverty, generational and situational, and how different they really were. One piece of scripture stood out from Deuteronomy 15:11, “There are always going to be poor and needy people among us. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.” It was becoming so clear how God was pointing us in the direction of a real need within our own community.
Meetings and discussions continued, and our food pantry began to take shape. We even wrote a purpose statement, “To serve and care for the people in our community in the name of Jesus Christ.” Space was found within our church, and plans were beginning to fall into place as to what kind of food we would collect and how we would distribute it. In September 2012, we began collecting food for Hope’s Cupboard, our official food pantry ministry with doors opening up for food distribution in November. Since then, we’ve given away over 540 bags of groceries, serving around 45-50 people each month. More importantly, Hope’s Cupboard has provided hope to over 1,300 people.
Each bag of food contains about $25.00 worth of food, including cereal, pasta and pasta sauce, canned fruit and vegetables, peanut butter, canned meat, macaroni and cheese, rice, beans, and crackers. If the guest has a large family, we add extra items. If the guest is homeless, we make a different bag they can take with them that includes silverware and cans with pop-tops.
We really couldn’t do this without the help of our volunteers who organize the pantry each month, pack the bags, and serve our guests. The members and friends of Trinity UMC have been amazingly generous, bringing in more groceries every month after we’ve emptied the shelves. Just when we think we may not have enough food, someone steps up and fills the need. Since our doors opened, we have never turned anyone away.
But Hope’s Cupboard isn’t just a place to get food. When our guests register, we invite them to share with us their needs and concerns. Their concerns are added to the prayer list, and we pray for them every week. Information on many social services resources is also available to our guests. Although Trinity UMC can’t help with all their needs, we always try to point them in the right direction to get help.
As we look to the future, we’re excited to continue to serve the people in our community through Hope’s Cupboard. Our congregation has been able to keep the pantry full, but our hope for the future is to partner with another church or two, helping us reach more people with food and hope through a bag of groceries. After all, “With that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back.” (Corinthians 3:12)
For more information on Hope’s Cupboard, or to partner with Trinity UMC as they serve their community, contact Sandy Clingenpeel at email@example.com .