Food insecurity in Shamong this year continues to be worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. So three churches have stepped up.
Pastors and leaders from Indian Mills United Methodist, Shawnee Baptist and Crossroads churches had already collected food for the internal pantry at Indian Mills School. But as school ended for summer, the need became greater.
“In June, as schools let out, we expanded it to people in the area who couldn’t get out to supermarkets or whichever else and get food to them,” said Crossroads Pastor Erik Vagen. “We communicated with John Lyons at the Office of Emergency Management and he helped us to give us food to families.”
Crossroads’ pantry is open on Fridays from 3 to 5 p.m.; appointments are recommended to allow for adherence to social distancing.
Christa Graeber, who runs Shawnee Baptist’s pantry, said she has worked with the churches in the past to collect food, but she started the Shawnee Baptist pantry to answer a continuing and greater need.
Shawnee Baptist’s pantry is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Families are required to remain in their cars, masked, at all times. Donations are placed in trunks.
Indian Mills Pastor Jack Orr could not be reached for comment. The church delivers food to families from its pantry. To schedule a delivery, call or text the pantry coordinator at (609) 534-6495.
Vagen clarified that the churches are not interested in their own promotion but in sharing the community’s food needs, regardless of religious beliefs.
.”We don’t want to be just transactional, we want to be transformation,” he stated. “We don’t want to just give a loaf of bread, we want to build a friendship and we can’t do that alone.”
All of the pantries house nonperishable, nutritional food. Each allows for families to request food with no questions asked, given that some recipients may be hesitant to reveal their need.
Neither of the three churches has sought volunteers because of restrictions on gatherings and other issues surrounding the pandemic. Non-perishable food donations are accepted at all three. Donations can be coordinated by emailing CrossroadsShamong@gmail.com, or by calling Shawnee Baptist at (609) 268-2500.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years and I’ve never seen people come together like this,” Graeber said. “It’s not to say it hasn’t happened before, but it’s the first time I’m seeing the churches and schools come together to feed people.
“Everybody’s willing to work together and is super excited to serve the community and let them know we’re here. We want everyone to know we’re here.”
“That’s the kind of stuff that gets me out of bed every morning,” Vagen shared. “I don’t think church is about meetings. We have our Sunday mornings, but to equip people with what they need. That’s why I’m here and why we’re here to be a part of the community.”