JENISON, Mich. (WOOD) — Organizers say on the fourth Saturday of the month, there’s a line of families waiting outside the Jenison Bible Church Food pantry. Sometimes they’re earlier than the volunteers who help set up the space.
The families are there for the pantry’s Fill a Bag. It’s how they distribute food to their neighbors in need.
“A dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to,” Steven Washburn, the youth pastor at the church, said. “So we see that reflected in the people coming. And the need to continue what we’re doing and to make sure we have plenty on the shelves for them to enjoy.”
Washburn says the pantry has been operating since 1999, when the congregation saw an opportunity to take what they heard preached in the services and create a branch from the church to the community.
“As I think about our congregation, the love and the joy that they have in doing it and showing up on a Saturday morning especially, I think the people really make our pantry unique in that way,” Washburn said. “There’s that desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it really is the reality of our people that they just want to serve others and they’re just looking for those opportunities to help to serve.”
Their Fill a Bag event is more like a fill a cart, as long as there’s enough on the pantry shelves for what the families need. Right now, they’re serving between 25 and 30 families on those Saturdays, while offering their pantry throughout the rest of the month to those with emergency needs.
Washburn says without the generosity of the congregation keeping their shelves stocked and the relationship they have with local vendors and groups like Feeding America West Michigan, the pantry wouldn’t be able to serve in the capacity they’re needed to each month.
“We’ve partnered with Feeding America for a lot of years and so they provide so much of what we are able to give away,” Washburn said. “In our world today, there’s just all sorts of things that are difficult for people. And sometimes that’s where’s the next meal coming from? Where’s the next thing that we’re gonna feed our family? And so that’s where we see our opportunity to love people like Jesus, and to be able to show him to them as someone who cares for them and cares for their needs. Even when those needs are physical at the moment.”
The Wildcats raised more than 1,400 pounds of food.