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May
29
2024
Village Life

The Yellow Springs Community Food Pantry, previously housed in the basement of the Yellow Springs United Methodist Church, has found a new home at Central Chapel AME Church, 411 S. High St. Pictured in front of the new location’s stocked shelves, left to right: The Rev. DeBora Duckett, of Central Chapel AME Church; Pastor Latoya Warren, of Yellow Springs United Methodist Church; Yellow Springs Community Food Pantry Director Paula Hurwitz; and Food Pantry Treasurer Lisa Russell. (Photo by Lauren "Chuck" Shows)

Yellow Springs Food Pantry finds a new home

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Beginning Thursday, May 11, the Yellow Springs Community Food Pantry will have a new physical home — but according to those who work to keep it running twice a month, every month, that’s the only thing about the pantry that will change.

“We really hope people will continue to come,” pantry Director Paula Hurwitz told the News this week.

The pantry, which has been hosted by the Yellow Springs United Methodist Church for nearly two decades, will now be located at Central Chapel AME Church, 411 S. High St. Just as before, the pantry will be open 2–4 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.

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Founded two decades ago by the late villager Mary Ann Bebko in her garage, the Food Pantry moved to the Methodist Church in 2005, where it was then managed by villager Patty McAllister. In summer of 2014, the News announced that McAllister would step down from the position the following winter, and that the pantry needed a new coordinator. Having read the announcement in the News, Hurwitz said she was intrigued.

“So one day I went to the pantry,” Hurwitz said. “I’d never met Patty before, but I introduced myself and said, ‘I think this is something I can do.’”

Having headed up the Food Pantry for nearly a decade now, Hurwitz just last week received the James A. McKee Association Founders Award for Community Service for her role. Eschewing any personal praise during this interview, she credited the pantry’s volunteers — who help with everything from social media to sorting donations to greeting those who use the pantry — and local donors with helping the pantry thrive.

“If you ask me why I [work for the pantry], it’s probably just because I can,” Hurwitz said. “And I have a lot of help — we have wonderful volunteers, and the people we serve are delightful. And Yellow Springs is usually a very generous community.”

Finding a new home

Hurwitz, along with YS United Methodist Church’s Pastor Latoya Warren; Central Chapel’s pastor, the Rev. DeBora Duckett; and Central Chapel Trustee Pro Tem Kevin McGruder, showed the News around the space at Central Chapel that now houses the Food Pantry — a bright, airy room at the back of the church.

A decade ago, they said, the space was used as the church’s choir room. Later, the room was used for private consultations with medical professionals during the weekly free clinics the church began hosting in 2018; the clinic was shuttered in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

Hurwitz said she’s long envisioned the space at Central Chapel as ideal for the pantry due to its accessibility; whereas the United Methodist Church required Food Pantry patrons to park along the street and walk down steps  into the church’s basement, or use a small elevator, which Hurwitz described as “more like a dumbwaiter,” the new pantry has a parking lot behind the church and a nearby rear entrance off S. Stafford Street that leads directly into the pantry.

“Some people come with walkers, wheelchairs or canes — so I think it will be easier for some of our people who haven’t been able to navigate it,” Hurwitz said. “I think [the new space] will serve us well.”

The move to Central Chapel, which was more than a year in the making, took time and finagling — a roof leak at the church that caused some damage to the former clinic room lengthened the process significantly. However, Hurwitz and Duckett credited the eventually successful move to the persistence of McGruder, who, with fellow members of the Central Chapel Trustee Board, helped secure an insurance claim to repair the roof and restore the space to like-new conditions.

“[McGruder] made it possible for us to be here — he’s been instrumental,” Hurwitz said.

“Through the Trustee Board!” McGruder clarified, demurring.

“But he brought the idea to the Board,” the Rev. Duckett said. “And then they worked through all the details.”

McGruder went on to say that, in his view, it makes sense that the space that was once used to provide free healthcare should now be used to offer nourishment to the community — especially as the pantry continues to be housed in a church.

“When you look at the life of Jesus — he’s healing people, and he’s feeding people,” McGruder said.

“It’s the ultimate purpose,” Duckett added. “Being a blessing to support and continue a legacy — that’s what God would want us to do.”

Pastor Warren went on to say that the Food Pantry’s departure from the United Methodist Church is bittersweet; while she said her church was happy to continue hosting the Food Pantry in perpetuity, she understands the need for greater accessibility for community members.

“I think everybody is in a cycle of change — COVID opened up that door,” Warren said. “And this is the direction God has led this particular organization to provide better access to receive these blessings.”

She added on behalf of the YS United Methodist Church: “We’re not excluding ourselves [from being involved with the pantry] — we just have to figure out what that looks like now.”

Feeding community, twice a month

The shelves of the new Yellow Springs Community Food Pantry are brimming with donated items, and each shelf is dedicated to holding a different kind of item: canned fish, canned chicken, beans, cereal, soup, peanut butter, jelly, pasta — the list goes on.

“We’re an unusual pantry in that what happens is people will come in, and we allow them to have one item from each shelf,” Hurwitz said. “We don’t pre-pack for people, so they may have choices — maybe they don’t like Raisin Bran. Maybe they only like Cheerios. Or they may say, ‘Oh, Paula, I have plenty of cereal right now, I don’t need any’ — our clients are discerning.”

Food items are available for clients on both the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. On the fourth Thursday of each month, clients are also welcome to select nonfood items, such as menstrual products, dish and laundry soap, and bathroom items, including shampoo and toothpaste.

Hurwitz said that during each of its twice-per-month open hours, the Food Pantry serves between 20 and 30 client families. A client family might be six people — and it might be one person. Many of the pantry’s clients are regulars, she added, but there is usually at least one new face every two weeks.

“We have people who come every time, and then we have folks who come once or twice just because they’re having a little bit of a hard time,” Hurwitz said.

She added that, if you need the Food Pantry’s services but can’t personally make it to the open hours, you can have a friend or neighbor come and shop for you; if you can’t find transportation, you can also request a ride to the pantry in advance through the Senior Center. And if neither of those options are accessible for you, you can contact the Food Pantry at 937-510-6030 and arrange for items to be delivered.

Hurwitz said the Food Pantry is still working out a process for accepting donations at its new location; previously, folks could leave donations outside the Methodist Church, but for now, Hurwitz advises those who would like to donate to call the pantry to make arrangements.

Another option for donating is via PORCH Yellow Springs, an offshoot of the national PORCH program, which holds monthly food drives in which participating villagers can leave donations on their porches to be picked up by program volunteers. Donations garnered through PORCH benefit the Food Pantry; monthly pantry needs and donation pick-up dates are posted regularly at facebook.com/PorchYellowSprings.

As for what items the pantry especially needs right now, Hurwitz said it’s a “moving target” — though she did mention the shelves appeared to be “a little low on pasta sauce.” But if you don’t know what to donate, monetary donations are always accepted via mail at P.O. Box 815, Yellow Springs, 45387.

Looking around at the stocked shelves of the new Food Pantry, Hurwitz acknowledged that even the many items there don’t account for “everything you would need.”

“It’s all a supplement, just to maybe make life a little easier,” she said. “But we hope people will come visit us in this new spot — we’re all friendly here!”

The Yellow Springs Community Food Pantry is open 2–4 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month — except during Thanksgiving week, when it will be open Tuesday. Remaining open dates for 2023 are: May 11 and 25, June 8 and 22, July 13 and 27, Aug. 10 and 24, Sept. 14 and 28, Oct. 12 and 26, Nov. 9 and 21, and Dec. 14 and 28.

The pantry serves residents of Yellow Springs, Miami Township and Clifton, and people who work in Yellow Springs or have children in Yellow Springs Schools. No proof of income is required, but pantry volunteers ask that clients show proof of name and address. For more information on the pantry, call 937-510-6030.

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