By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
Once a week, the food pantry at the Central United Methodist Church at 301 Fairmont Ave. opens its doors to help as many needy as it can.
From noon to 2 p.m. every Tuesday, its volunteers gladly give out emergency supplies of foods.
“All we ask is our clients go to the Connecting Link and get a verification form, but if they’re unable to do that, we will give them an emergency food supply,” said director Royce Lyden.
“We want to make sure they’re not abusing the system. We really want to serve people in need.
“But we don’t turn anyone away. If you need an emergency supply, we’ll give it to you without a referral.”
That emergency supply might include bread, eggs, meat, coffee or tea, peanut butter, jelly, mac and cheese, and canned soups, meats, fruits and vegetables.
“It all depends on what’s in stock,” she said.
“We try to have a consistent shopping list. We receive donations from other sources.”
Once a month, they give out toiletries like soap, shampoo and toothpaste.
Central partners with Trinity UMC, she added.
“Both congregations donate.”
The food pantry feeds anywhere from 25-45 people a week.
“We usually are only able to serve about 30, but there have been weeks we’ve gone over,” she said.
Volunteers shop once a week, some assigned to purchase a specific item while others “look for good deals,” she said.
One group will bake fresh cookies for food pantry day, she added.
“Others will provide hot chocolate, coffee or cider in the hospitality room.”
Other freebies are available, such as clothing or diapers.
“It all depends on what’s donated,” Lyden said.
The small pantry serves a big purpose.
“Our location is important. We are accessible to all the high rises and people who live downtown but don’t have access to public transportaion.”
Every donations helps, she said.
“Even one box of cereal means a meal for a family. That makes a big difference. A child will not go to bed hungry.
“The Gift of Love has helped us tremendously. Donations go down after the holidays. It gives us an extreme boost. We can do other things with our money to help provide the needs of those who are down and out.
“We see all kinds of people here,” she continued. “Working parents with families. We help them stretch their paychecks.”
She has seen an increase in requests for food in the past 12 weeks, she said.
“I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it was the holidays or if more people know about us.
“It’s just good to know we are filling a need.”
To help the Central United Methodist food pantry and all the other food pantries the Times West Virginian is collecting food for, here’s what you can do:
• Individuals are encouraged to bring boxes or bags of canned goods or nonperishable food items to our business office at 300 Quincy St. We will be collecting these items Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Thursday, Feb. 13.
• Businesses, schools or offices can set up satellite donation locations to collect items through Thursday, Feb. 13. We’ll even come and pick up all items collected.
• Community-service organizations, schools, school programs, churches or civic groups can take this on as a project. Again, anything you collect, we’ll pick up to be distributed with the other donations.
For more information on the Gift of Love, call the Times West Virginian’s newsroom at 304-367-2540.
Email Debra Minor Wilson at email@example.com.