When a family arrived on the doorstep of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church weary and looking for food, church members and community volunteers realized that though they lived in a small community, the poverty and need within their little town was great. Something needed to be done.
From the dedication of three original founding members and the church congregation came the creation of Minerva Community Outreach. Offering a variety of services, the ministry began with a food pantry in 2008. In addition to the pantry, the Outreach also delivers food boxes to senior citizens who are home-bound and to the local senior center.
The grocery distribution is offered the fourth Friday of each month, which is extremely helpful for the people being served. Individuals using food stamps to feed their families tend to have a difficult time making ends meet toward the end of the month when benefits have been depleted. Having a reliable source of fresh and nourishing food allows families to eat well without sacrificing paying other bills, like rent, utilities or transportation costs.
“Knowing that we’re helping someone who’s fallen on hard times, it warms your heart,” explained Steve Fletcher, a founding member of the Outreach and inventory manager for 10 years. “The look of joy when someone tells you they’re not going to have to go without — seeing that joy — that’s payment enough.”
Steve is all too aware of the situation families are facing. Years ago, he was injured on the job and couldn’t work for seven months. Steve was very reluctant to receive public benefits, but in the end, he realized he needed to put his family first. In order to provide for his family, he relied on unemployment and food benefits during that difficult time.
Steve’s own hardship helped show him that you can’t tell what people are going through simply by looking at them. “For us, times were good, and then all of a sudden I’m injured and bankrupt.” As he serves families at the pantry now, he realizes it’s difficult to know someone’s circumstances that brought them there.
“Helping somebody when they can’t help themselves, that’s what it’s all about. You simply can’t give away enough food.”