MASON — The Bend Area Food Pantry marked the opening of its new facility on Adams Street in Mason with an open house on Sunday.
The pantry is located adjacent to the old Mason Elementary School, where it was formerly housed.
The old elementary school is owned by Soul Harvest Church, which provided a room for the pantry for food distribution. When the church began renovating the school and decided the area housing the pantry was needed for a future project, Soul Harvest built the new facility for the food pantry.
Vicky Nazarewycz, director of the food pantry along with husband, Lew, said although the building was built and is owned by the church, she was told it is for the pantry to use “until it dissolves or until Jesus comes.”
While the building will now generally be filled with cans and boxes of food, Sunday it was filled with volunteers, clients of the pantry, and Bend Area residents who wanted to check out the pantry’s “new digs.” Freezers and refrigerators line an entire wall, and the pantry facility now includes garage doors for easier access to unload the large amounts of food coming in.
Each Monday the pantry receives food from Walmart, through the store’s “Feeding America” program. Nazarewycz said over 77,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and bakery items, and frozen meat were received from Walmart last year, that the store use to throw away.
On the third Tuesday of the month, government commodities from the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington, along with pantry food that is either purchased or donated, is given out. Special food distributions take place at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Nazarewycz said between 50 and 70 families are served on Mondays, when food is given out between noon and 12:30 p.m. The third Tuesday distribution, held from 9 a.m. to noon, normally serves around 150 families.
The pantry runs under the umbrella of the Upper Mason Parish of the United Methodist Church, but Nazarewycz said many churches make large donations regularly to keep it going. One church recently gave her a $5,000 check to provide a heating and cooling system for the new building.
Others provide assistance on a smaller scale, but still much appreciated. The now closed Sporn plant recently donated both a large freezer and refrigerator, which was delivered by Bob’s Market in one of the company trucks. Students from Wahama, the Lakin women’s prison, churches, businesses, civic organizations and individuals all have made food and/or monetary donations.
The pantry serves people from Lakin through the Bend Area, and a total of 225 clients are registered. Nazarewycz said there are income guidelines to be able to receive the food, and proof of residency and income must be provided.
The director said the pantry is fortunate to have 25 to 30 dedicated volunteers who help each week. She said they not only volunteer their time, but gas money, as well. Several teenagers also work throughout the year in exchange for community service hours that are required by the school.
Among the regular volunteers are Ralph and Sally Ross, Betty Fox, Nancy Ohlinger, Brenda and Paul Nollge, Paul Hesson, Glenn and Patty Johnson, Larry Bumgardner, Betty Robinson, A.J. Howard, Sharon Pearson, Martha Friend, Bob Dolin, Larry and Jodi Noble, Eddie Bumgarner, Darlene Hensley, Donna Dotson, Gene Thomas, Pastor Neil and Mackie Tennant, Pastor Annette Carper, Pastor John Bumgarner, Pastor Jeff Mayfield and Pastor Donnie Dye. Directors Lew and Vicky also work as volunteers.
Nazarewycz said even with all of the help and assistance received, there is one who gets the credit.
“All of the glory goes to God,” she stated. “Without Him and His direction, we wouldn’t be here.”
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.