Last November, I wrote a post about something I called “Let’s Be Thankful Soup”. I made soup for my family with canned goods like the ones I imagine someone would get from a food pantry. It turns out I was pretty spot on.
I was recently put in touch with a really lovely woman named Carol Hill. Carol and her friend Pam Gebhardtsbauer have been running a food pantry called the Open Doors Food Pantry out of their church, the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Highland, MD. This month, Open Doors celebrates one year of service to the community and I was asked to write about them.
Open Doors opened its doors in July 2013 after months and months of planning. Carol said she had visited a church in Carroll County with her mother in September of 2012. The church had a food pantry, and after helping there for a couple months, Carol realized it was something she could do in her own church. She remembers speaking to her pastor and saying, “I think I’m supposed to start a food pantry here.” Her pastor didn’t tell her he thought she was crazy, even though he did. Just a tiny bit. With lots of work, planning and determination, Carol and Pam opened their doors that first month to seven families.
Open Doors is open to its clients once a month and now serves about 30 families a month. Many families have just one parent. Some are shockingly like you and me. They have nice homes in a cozy suburb except at some point, something went terribly wrong leaving them to rely on help from the community until they can recover.
And recover they do! Carol told me that many of the clients do recover from the circumstances that have brought them to her.
While they are with her, Carol makes sure they are treated with the utmost dignity. As she says, she tells all her volunteers “Treat everyone like you would treat your mother, if you liked her.”
I asked Carol about what she needs. Summer, as you can imagine, is a time of great need for families. Many children who get meals at school are not getting those meals now. Their parents now have to stretch their limited funds to provide several more meals a week. Right now, Carol said she needs peanut butter and jelly, pasta sauce, paper goods, and individual servings of macaroni and cheese or Chef Boyardee pasta.
Carol has been very lucky to have some very consistent helpers with her mission. Last year, The Church of Latter Day Saints in Clarksville held an event called The Day to Serve. They collected food and funds that went to Open Doors and plan to do so again this fall.
She has a family that buys fresh vegetables every month for the food pantry and another that buys fresh fruit. She uses the loose change from the church collection plate to buy food from the Maryland Food Bank.
Carol said she can always use help. So if you know anyone looking for service hours, send them her way! But just know, Carol is going to make them work. More than one child has sat around goofing on a smart phone for two hours and left with an unsigned paper.
I asked Carol what people make with the food they get at Open Doors. She said she has searched for recipes online to give the families ideas to help them stretch their food into several meals. One of her favorites is Mac and Cheese with ground beef and stewed tomatoes. She said Mac and Cheese with tuna and bacon is also pretty tasty. Here is a recipe that combines Kraft Mac and Cheese, a staple for many low income families with a little ground beef, some tomatoes and bacon to make some pretty tasty Bacon Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese. I chose to make a sort of Tuna Melt Mac and Cheese. I prepared the Mac and Cheese according to the directions, added a can of tuna, a little onion and tomato and a little extra cheese on top. It was delicious!
July 19th is the one year celebration of Open Doors. The food pantry will operate from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. Then, at 1:00 pm, there will be a picnic to celebrate. If you want to help at the food shelf, the fun starts at 7:30 am, getting ready for the day. If you can’t make it to the celebration, but are interested in helping, you can mail donations to Mt. Zion UMC Church at 12340 Scaggsville Rd, Highland, MD, 20777. Please write “food pantry” in the memo line.
I hope you aren’t ever in a position to go visit Carol or the many of people like her who dedicate their spare time to helping those in need. I am very thankful for her.