Beyond the Walls grant helps Pierce UMC better serve 'food desert' in northern Colorado

February 23, 2015

Written by Barbara C. Hensley
Administrative Council Chair, Pierce UMC

2014 was a growth year for the Pierce Food Pantry, as clientele more than doubled. A grant request was submitted for $1,800, and an award was made for $500 (for which we were grateful). The award purchased close to 3,000 of the more than 20,000 distributed in 2014.

Congregation members, community members, and former community members stepped up to contribute food, funds and volunteer hours. The Weld Food Bank chose the Pierce Food Pantry for a program which allowed us to pick up food from them at no cost from March through June, allowing the Pierce Food Pantry to end 2013 with funds to carry over into 2014.

Geographical boundaries had not been set, and the biggest challenge was keeping up with demand from clientele driving from large communities rather than taking advantage of services in their local area. Starting Jan. 1, 2015, boundaries for the Pierce Food Pantry have been set to include from the Towns of Eaton and Galeton north to the Colorado State line, and from Weld County Road 25 east to the Weld County Line. Setting boundaries will allow us to better serve the "food desert" in northern Colorado and eliminate duplication of services to those in large communities.

Exceptions to the boundaries are left open to the food pantry staff. No one with a strong need will be turned away, and everyone outside the boundaries will be provided with a list of service organizations in their local area.

The interaction with clientele provides a clear picture of how the Pierce Food Pantry has helped the community, not only in providing substance but in bringing community members together in loving interaction. A Christmas card received from one of our clients is attached.

Following are a few of the ways that the Pierce Food Pantry has touched lives in the community:

One family served by the pantry consists of a grandmother and her three grandchildren, who received an eviction notice after a divorce left them on their own. It was through contact with the Food Pantry that congregation members had the opportunity to talk with the family and invite them to attend Sunday morning worship and Children's Sunday School. The family currently attends Sunday morning services on a regular basis, and has voiced their appreciation for the moral support of the congregation.

Volunteering on Food Pantry distribution days has changed opinions of congregation members regarding the needs of the community, and the hardships faced by many of their neighbors.

Becoming more aware of issues faced by others helps our congregation to relate more intimately with the community as well as with the needs of the world.

One of our volunteers experienced domestic problems and was unable to reside at home for a time. Her first place of refuge was the Pierce First United Methodist Church on Food Pantry distribution day. She came to the church for support, and found solace in helping others with the food distribution. Had the Food Pantry not been open, she would not have found the outlet when needed. The couple met with the church pastor, and is working through their issues.

A mother of two completed her college degree, secured a full time job, and graduated from client to volunteer for the Food Pantry. One couple who suffered a severe motorcycle accident and were out of work for some time, were very thankful to have the food we provided. One is still undergoing follow up surgery.

Within the Pierce United Methodist Church, the food pantry has become a major topic of discussion -- a project that binds congregation members in a common cause, and a source of pride. Congregation members without other common interests are drawn together.

The lights are on in the Pierce United Methodist Church, and community members recognize the fact. The results of operations truly reach beyond the walls of the church building.

The Pierce Food Pantry spent $3,245 on food in 2014, which includes the $500 grant money.