Ridgeway Community Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa., has started a new ministry in conjunction with HANNA’s Pantry, located across the street in Susquehanna Township. HANNA’s Pantry is a community food bank that provides service to neighbors in need.
Here is how the program started and how it has expanded.
Almost 25 years ago a nurse in the school district noticed that several children complained of stomach aches on Monday mornings. She realized that many of them had too little food to eat on weekends. To help with this need, the nurse collected food and sent home a grocery bag on Friday afternoons filled with the dietary needs for the weekend for the identified families.
That effort has become HANNA’s Pantry, named after SusqueHANNA Township. Each month, 30,000 pounds of food are served to almost 600 families. Storage rooms, shelving units, freezers, and refrigerators were donated or purchased with help from the school district, local food distributors, and the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Twice a month pantry volunteers from the community and area churches, including Ridgeway, distribute food in direct proportion to a family’s needs. A representative from each family drives to the pantry center behind the township high school with a form identifying how many members are in their family, how many are children, and what dietary needs must be met.
Now Ridgeway Church has expanded that program. Teams of church members volunteer to make a free drive-through pancake breakfast for those families in the program. HANNA’s Pantry provides most of the food and the congregation contributes about $300 each month for the rest of the food and supplies. One Saturday a month, church members prepare pancakes and sausages, serving the breakfasts in compostable containers along with butter, syrup, plastic utensils, and a napkin. Meanwhile, other church members walk to the waiting cars and ask how many pancake meals are needed and what supplemental foods the family would like. Supplemental foods vary monthly but usually include juice, containers of fruit, nutrition bars, and coffee. Those foods are gathered, bagged, and delivered with the pancake containers to the family car. Frequently as many as 225 people are served this free breakfast.
The church and the community have formed an ever-growing relationship. The outpouring of help from church members demonstrates their willingness to provide for the needs of the neighborhood. Words of peace from the church members are usually met with words of heartfelt gratitude for both the food and the caring extended to the recipients. Indeed, Ridgeway has taken its name seriously as a community church. —Cheryl Faber
This article originally appeared in Messenger magazine.