Expanding outreach

Bread of Life Food Pantry adding addition

BALDWIN — For the dedicated volunteers who keep the wheels turning at the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Baldwin, helping meet the needs of people in the community brings them no greater joy- and to better help them serve the area - a new addition to the pantry is being constructed.

Every Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., people throughout the county are able to come to the pantry, located next to St. Ann Church in Baldwin, to receive food.

It takes a team of volunteers each Friday to be there when a food truck comes to deliver food, and on Monday’s more volunteers prep to get everything organized for distribution on Wednesdays.

“The addition is being built because we ran out of space to store all the food we need to hand out,” said Bread of Life Food Pantry Director Lynne Mills, who has been volunteering with the pantry the past seven years. “The extra space will be used mainly for food storage and a restroom for the workers. This will help us to stock up on sale items, especially to pull through the winter months.”

As director, Mills manages Feeding America orders, coordinates volunteers and makes sure there’s enough people to volunteer, as well as plenty of food to meet the needs.

“For July we served 350 to 400 families, so about 1,100 people per month. It takes a team of people and about 500 to 600 volunteer hours a month to run the pantry,” Mills added.

Marianne Cooke, the shopper for the pantry, puts at least 25 hours in a week, between shopping and helping at the pantry. She says a lot more goes into operating a food pantry than one might think, but it is a task she and the other volunteers find great purpose in.

"I am one of the few people in the world who loves to shop and find the best prices. It gives you a purpose,” Cooke said.

Other businesses and community members also help make the outreach a continual success. Houseman’s Foods will help take donations in the checkout lines, and the M-37 Meat Shack provides opportunity for hunters to donate meat through Share the Harvest.

“The Share the Harvest campaign donated 5,500 pounds of venison this past year. We gave the last of it away today,” Mills said. “Our hunters provide venison until the middle of August, saving us $11,000 in burger costs.”

“God is great and gives us everything we need. We always try to keep enough food for at least 90 families per week, and we have never ran out. We try to at least give three meat choices and everything to go along with it.”

Mills added the pantry is assisted with the aid of about seven or eight churches who either help fund, donate food or volunteer for the pantry.

“It takes all these kinds of people to provide for the community. We provide more than food. We share hope, and want people to know they are cared about and feel the love of Jesus, even when they see a volunteer outside from pantry hours out in the community. Volunteering for the pantry is more than just giving food,” Mills said, adding each Wednesday starts with a prayer among volunteers to set the tone of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Recently, the pantry also was recipient of the Great Lakes Energy Community Grant Giveaway, winning the $5,000 for the central region which Lake County is part of, through votes from the public.

“Out of 27 nominees in our region, it is pretty amazing our little pantry in Lake County has that kind of support,” Mills said.