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Grace United Methodist Church uses grant to fund food bank

Fran Brownell
Macksville Grace United Methodist Church Food Pantry volunteers are using funds from a $1,000 grant provided by South Central Community Foundation in Pratt to stock pantry shelves with products including toilet tissue, a scare commodity in regional grocery stores. Pictured (from left) are Jacob Suiter, Fiedellas Loy, Lynn Suiter, Carol Blackburn and Pastor Brian Blackburn.

Macksville’s Grace United Methodist Church Food Pantry is prepared to step up to assist families during the COVID-19 crisis with additional funding provided by a $1,000 grant from South Central Community Foundation, headquartered in Pratt.

“Many are out of a job at this time and those who are still working face so much financial uncertainty,” Food Pantry volunteer Jody Suiter said.

“The Grace United Methodist Church Food Pantry and Care Closet does important work in the communities of Stafford County and they continue to have an incredible impact on the families and students in need, so SCCF is excited to be a small part of their success,” said SCCF Executive Director Holly Rooks.

In addition to canned food items, grant funds from SCCF were used to purchase hygiene products, paper goods, detergents, and toiletry items, according to Suiter.

When school is in session, Grace UMC also has a Care Closet at Macksville High School which provides toiletries, sock and gloves to students when needed.

The UMC Macksville Food Pantry was launched a decade ago when then-pastor Byoung Lee challenged Grace Church members to do something good for someone in the community.

“It’s always been located at our church at 133 Gilmore Street or as we tell people ‘the church by the park,’” Suiter said.

Originally housed in an upstairs classroom at the church, the Food Pantry was recently moved to the ground floor in space previously occupied by the church library to make it more accessible to recipients and volunteers with no steps to climb, Suiter said.

It was Barbara Jo Nelson and Lynn Suiter who got the ball rolling and started the Food Pantry.

“Starting from nothing, they consulted with others in adjacent counties to see how they handled operations,” Suiter said. “They also consulted with KSU Extension and learned a lot about storage guidelines, what the numbers on cans mean and other aspects to make it a successful food pantry. They used money from a memorial fund and donations from church members to stock the shelves.”

Donations from church and community members continue to provide support for the UMC Food Pantry. There are no stipulations for receiving assistance.

“We operate on an as needed basis,’ Suiter said. “When someone contacts us for assistance, we will meet them at the church or sometimes deliver items to those who are homebound.”

Suiter said that over the years, boxes have been put together for seven to ten families at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We would include a ham or turkey, plus fresh produce, canned goods, and a card and Upper Room daily devotional booklet. When asked if they could use some extra food, they were always very grateful,” Suiter said, “People have been highly appreciative when we go to deliver. We hear, ‘Thank you, thank you!’ And, it’s sincere.”

“We haven’t noticed an increase since Shelter at Home started, but we believe we will be getting more calls as the economy continues to struggle,” Suiter said. “We want to help those in need- not only by supplying healthy food, but also by helping provide necessary items that WIC, food stamps and free lunches do not provide.”

Macksville Food Pantry volunteers are focused on reaching out to neighbors, Suiter said.

“We were able to reach a large audience when school was in session (before COVID-19), because we worked with the school nurse, Becky Filbert, and were able to purchase hygiene products that students could pick up on an anonymous basis, whether due to financial need or an emergency situation,” Suiter said. “Now we are hoping to reach out to our neighbors in need, especially during this turbulent and uncertain time.”

“This project speaks directly to the mission of the church to care for our neighbors and share God’s love,” Suiter said. “We’re a small church in a small town. But we have a big heart to serve others.”

For more information, contact Pastor Blackburn at 620-348-2855 and leave a message.

Suiter said there is a second food bank in town under the auspices of the Macksville Christian Church.