The food pantry at Masonville-Rancocas Methodist Church will once again be the beneficiary of a local food drive, as shelves at the church’s Caring Corner Food Pantry need to be restocked.
The Sept. 12 drive organized by the Mt. Laurel Democratic Club is a response to the food pantry assisting a much wider audience than before the pandemic.
“The number of households we help feed has increased, as has the number of new families we see,” said Pastor Karen Murray, who has been the church’s leader for a little more than a year. “We now provide food for around 35 families a week, but it’s not the same 35 families every week.”
The pantry also has increased its pickup schedule so more families can utilize the services, now distributing food on the third Saturday of each month from 9 to 11 a.m. and every Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.
Murray said that community service organizations, other churches and individual donors have helped keep the pantry well stocked, but it still needs to be replenished within two or three weeks following each organized food drive.
“Whatever food any one group brings in typically lasts for two-and-a-half food distribution events,” she explained. “But the donations we get are amazing.”
Murray also emphasized that the church will help feed anyone, regardless of religion, and that all are welcome. Even though social-distancing precautions mean pickups are done outside the church building, both Murray and the pantry’s dedicated, friendly volunteers try to make sure their neighbors from Mt. Laurel and nearby towns feel welcome.
“I believe that people come here because of their need and because their experience with our pantry is that we’re safe and we’re generous,” she noted. “I had a woman call me personally because she couldn’t make it to our pantry during the distribution hours: I met her in the morning, and all she kept saying was, ‘This is the best place; we feel so safe. Everyone’s always smiling.’ It’s humbling to know people feel safe and welcome here.”
The pantry’s wish list for donations includes food and other goods of all kinds. Needed items include: shelf-stable foods (especially canned fruit but also canned vegetables, meats and soup, boxed pasta, sauces, peanut butter, jelly, cereal), juice boxes, paper products like toilet paper and paper towels, cleaning products and dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, dryer sheets and personal-care items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, shaving cream, soap, shampoo, deodorant, feminine hygiene products).
The pantry typically pre-prepares about 20 bags for regular recipients and then puts together additional bags according to other households’ requests. And while nutritious nonperishables are crucial to feeding their neighbors’ bellies, Murray said non-essential items are what feed their souls. The pantry is especially looking for both healthy snacks and special treats as students start going back to school.
“With school returning, we’re always looking for individually wrapped pretzels and cookies for students’ lunches,” she added.
There will be two donation locations for the Sept. 12 food drive. Porch dropoffs can be made all day at 18 Winterberry Court, or directly at Masonville-Rancocas Methodist Church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the drive. Additional donations for the Caring Corner food pantry can always be dropped off at the church every Wednesday between 3 and 6 p.m.
Murray added that the church has just established the Caring Corner Sharing Library to help feed hungry minds, too. All are invited to take — and donate — the books and art materials located at the corner of the church’s property.
“Take a book, leave a book and grab what you need,” Murray said. “We just put it up a few days ago, and we’ve already had people take multiple books.”