Home • Gloucester County News It’s a new year, but hunger doesn’t get old

It’s a new year, but hunger doesn’t get old

Volunteers from 13 county churches help fatten a local pantry

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
Volunteers get ready to distribute food to struggling families at the Greater Woodbury Cooperative Ministries Food Pantry on Jan. 4, including Kathy Stackhouse-Cunningham, Cheri Slack, Mari Ann Hill, Jeanette Smith, Linda Blackwell and Bonnie Bell.

As a new year begins, hunger continues to afflict struggling families.

But thanks to a coalition of 13 churches formed in 1997, more than 20 volunteers with the Greater Woodbury Cooperative Ministries (GWCM) recently helped ease the pangs of hunger felt most acutely by children. More than 50 people lined up on a chilly Jan. 4 outside the GWCM’s main food pantry, in the basement of Woodbury’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Barber Avenue.

“In November, we helped 907 families and over 3,000 people, thanks to a team of people that are fantastic,” said pantry director Kathy Stackhouse-Cunningham, noting that the spike in demand started with COVID. “We’re all volunteers.

“People lost their jobs,” she added. “Children and grandchildren moved back in with the parents. We thought the need would decrease after COVID, but then the food prices went up.”

“Household sizes started to increase,” explained pantry procurement officer Cheri Slack. “Families of two became families of six. Also, some of the smaller food pantries were closing. The need is greater as the churches themselves are struggling.”

The GWCM volunteers and many food donations come from the following 13 churches:

Colonial Manor United Methodist Church in West Deptford, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Woodbury, Central Baptist Church in Woodbury, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Christ Episcopal Church in Woodbury, Kemble Memorial United Methodist Church in Woodbury, Holy Angels Parish Catholic Church in Woodbury, Hope Christian Fellowship in Woodbury, St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Woodbury, the Presbyterian Church in Woodbury, Woodbury Friends Meeting, First Presbyterian Church in Woodbury Heights and Holy Nativity Lutheran Church in Wenonah.

When the GWCM started, the only pantry was at Colonial United Methodist Church. That facility expanded as the need for food increased, necessitating its move to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church’s larger space in 2014.

“The church provides the space at no cost,” explained Stackhouse-Cunningham, pointing to the four freezers and three refrigerators in two of the basement rooms, as well as pantry shelves to store donations. The larger third room is used to get the donation boxes ready.

“I never want to see anybody go to bed hungry,” she noted. “We provide good, nutritious food here.”

Besides donations from the churches, the pantry receives a monthly allotment from the Food Bank of South Jersey in Pennsauken, which sends a truckload of pallets. That’s when the “muscle team” of volunteers arrives to unload food at the curb and bring it into the pantry.

“One time they called at 6:30 a.m. to say the truck was leaving, and our volunteers were all here by 7 a.m.,” Stackhouse-Cunningham recalled. “We also get support and donations from local businesses and bakeries, including ShopRite and Wawa.”

She joined the GWCM at its inception in 1997 and Slack joined around 2003.

“I just feel God has led us to do his work,” Stackhouse-Cunningham said. “At the end of the day, there are bare shelves. The next day they are full again. God provides for those in need. We are just the conduits.”

The main pantry on Barber Avenue is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 11 a.m. The pantry at Colonial United Methodist Church on Elberne Avenue and Tatum Street in West Deptford is open on Saturday from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Clients in need of assistance are given a standard assortment of grocery items according to family size, plus fresh fruits and vegetables and special treats. Clients may attend and register at either food pantry location.

“We have clients from throughout Gloucester County and several towns in southern Camden County,” said Slack, adding that financial donations are also welcome to help stock the pantries, especially with perishable foods that need refrigeration.

To donate, individuals can bring money or a check payable to GWCM during pantry hours. Donations are also accepted online at gwcm.org.

Exit mobile version