Feeding more than 700 families each month requires tons of canned food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and meat, cheese and milk.
The Interchurch Food Pantry has relied for years on volunteers with pickup trucks and vans to travel throughout the region to pick up supplies.
But with the generosity of a local church, the pantry hopes to finally pick up more food for the growing number of families who need help.
Members of Journey Church in Franklin gave food pantry co-director Sheila Morton and pantry board member Carla Wilson an unexpected check for $10,000 on Sunday.
The money will cover nearly the entire cost to buy a box truck and pallet loader. With tears in their eyes, they accepted the generous gift in front of the congregation.
“It’s so heartwarming. It’s nice there are folks who really, really understand the need. I thank them from the bottom of our grocery carts,” Morton said. “This is a dream come true to us.”
In the last year, the pantry has seen the number of people needing help increase by 25 percent. To feed all of the people in need, volunteers have been taking their own vans, cars and trucks to pick up food. The pantry hoped upgrading to a box truck would ease the logistics of getting food, Morton said. They had previously used personal vehicles and a converted mini-bus to get items from larger food banks in central Indiana.
But that required people to load and unload everything box by box, which wasted time and was exhausting for volunteers, Morton said.
In addition, a limited amount of food could be loaded on the mini-bus. A box truck could fit much more, and with an automatic loader, volunteers could easily move pallets of food.
“We needed it so badly, because we’re getting stuck with food on pallets sometimes, and the old bus isn’t capable of handling pallets,” she said.
Journey Church pastor Jim Clayton heard about the struggles the pantry had been having transporting food. The church has supported the Interchurch Food Pantry since 2009. But in light of their specific need, Clayton thought the church could do more this year.
“I saw that if they had a truck, they could get more food. Wouldn’t it be great if we could buy them a truck?” he said.
The gift is the largest single donation that Journey Church has provided through its Generosity Project. The annual giving campaign has been part of the church since it was founded in 2009.
What started as an effort that raised $6,000 for needy families around Christmas became a concerted focus on giving at the end of the year.
The focus for the church’s approximately 200 members has been to try to give more than their normal offering.
“They know that this is something that will make a difference for people, so it’s really a sacrificial sort of thing,” Clayton said.
The church picked an organization each year to partner with, ranging from homeless advocates Christian Help Inc. to World Hope International, which digs wells to provide fresh water in poverty-stricken countries.
Since starting, Journey Church has given more than $71,000 through its Generosity Project.
“Churches have a bad rap sometimes of being all about the money, and only wanting people’s money. This helps us break that stereotype,” Clayton said. “We are about the money, but we’re about giving it away.”
The church membership raised more than $5,000 this holiday season for the Generosity Project. One of its sister churches provided a matching grant of $5,000 for a local organization.
The presentation of the money was a surprise. Clayton told pantry officials that the church had a donation it wanted to make during one of its services. He asked if Morton could be present to accept the check.
They were excited just to have any support, regardless of the amount, Morton said. But when they saw the check was for $10,000, it was overwhelming.
She had to try hard not to cry, Morton said.
“I was standing next to the minister, and it was a good thing I was, because I would have fainted. What generous folks,” Morton said.
The hope is to be able to purchase the box truck in the coming months, Morton said. Pantry volunteers have been gathering information and checking prices since before Christmas.
The generosity of the Journey Church community is almost too much to comprehend, Morton said.
But for the church, the donation is simply a way to live out the Christian values they believe in, Clayton said.
“When I read the Bible, I think that’s what God wants us to do. If you saw what Jesus did, he was always helping — feeding people, healing people,” Clayton said. “We’re just following God’s example.”