Friar Brian Davy, the rector at St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Fort Valley, talks about how a little neighborly effort is helping others.
Q: While some organizations are to be congratulated for their large and growing food ministries to the needy, St. Luke’s has taken a different approach — a little one, right?
A: We have. We’ve simply set up a little food pantry, a box with a renewable supply of food that’s just what it says: a small box outdoors at our church we keep stocked with food that others are welcome to take what they need from. We also encourage people to leave food if they can. It’s a take what you need, leave what you can arrangement.
Q: Who thought of it? How long has it operated?
A: The idea arose during our vestry meetings, our church board. It was talked about and there was a good feeling so some members got it started. Herman Holloway made the pantry and we got permission from the city to put it on a right of way at the back of our property. It’s been in operation since December.
Q: Who uses it?
A: It’s not something we police or watch closely so we can’t say exactly. That’s part of the idea. We’re not trying to control it in a big way. But there are neighborhoods around where the income level suggests people would need extra food from time to time and there are students in the area, so there could be a number of different groups taking advantage of it. We’re just offering the food and keeping it replenished from time to time. We aren’t asking questions.
Q: What kind of food?
A: Basically dry goods, canned goods, nonperishable items like packages of rice, canned ravioli, spaghetti, chili, tuna, soup, vegetables, canned fruit, mac and cheese boxes, pork and beans, and I even heard there were some cabbages.
Q: And the church keeps it filled?
A: Yes. We have an ongoing request for people to bring things and we encourage other groups to help us with donated items, too.
Q: What was the idea behind it?
A: There are a couple of things. One, we’re a small church and we’re likely to remain a small church, and we’re not going to be able to sink $1 million into a gigantic food ministry. But even though we’re small we can do the work of the church even if it’s in a smaller way. We can still help a few people around us, our neighbors and our friends. I’m really glad our parishioners wanted to do something like this and found a way to do it. We’re not stopped from doing the work of the church because we’re small. We’re happy with how it’s going after several months and it’s obviously serving a need. We’re making sure to stick with our commitment to keep it stocked.
Q: Would you describe it?
A: It’s like a cabinet, I guess. it’s about 3 feet by 3 feet and maybe a foot and a half deep. There are glass doors and basically two shelves inside. It’s on a post right at standing height. It’s painted white and under a lighted area. There’s a sign out front pointing to it.
Q: It seems reminiscent of the little library idea that’s popping up everywhere. Is this something you’d encourage others to do?
A: Absolutely. I’d definitely encourage others to do it if they feel called to. It’s a very effective, low-cost way to help others and serve the community. It just took a few people to create it and get it going. It’s done in a small way but for those in our situation, it’s something you can do. And sometimes people just need help in a small way to make a difference.
Q: You said there were a couple of reasons you’re doing this and gave one. What’s the other?
A: Well, it all goes back to what I said about doing the work of the church, large or small. It’s about wanting to serve the community and be of help to people. I do like the idea people can look at our church and see not just a building or a sign but can see an attempt, even a small one, to help others like this.
Q: There are “what ifs” that could be involved. Like what if someone takes advantage of it and takes all the food for themselves? Or what if it becomes a problem area with people hanging out too much? Or what if people fight over the food? Have those things been considered or been a problem?
A: They haven’t been a problem but they’re things we discussed. We’re doing this for others, and as I said, we’re not policing or controlling it. We’re offering it. If people take advantage of it, well, we’re still putting it out there. We’ll just have to deal with things as they come up. And if there are problems or people damage it, then those are criminal issues and we’ll just have to see they are dealt with as needed. But what might happen isn’t going to stop us from helping others, from doing the work of the church as we’re led to do it.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.