In the summer of 2010, the Missions Committee at this church realized it was time for a new mission. Rather than deciding what we wanted to do, we talked to many people, schools and town officials, and discovered there was a need for food. There were 600 students in our schools receiving free or reduced lunch!
Realizing no one church could take on the task of creating a food pantry alone, we reached out to other churches, and then reached out beyond the churches. The meetings began, and in November we came to understand it would be about a year before we could open, due to the bureaucratic process and the need to acquire space, shelving and other materials as well as food. One woman at that meeting asked, “What about people who need food now, who are hungry this winter?” We looked at each other and we were off and running to create Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
We knew this was God’s plan, for as obstacles presented themselves (and there were many!) they were overcome nearly instantaneously. Shelving? Big Y had purchased the recently closed Food Mart and A&P stores. Someone in the group knew someone at Big Y and we were told we could have as much shelving as we needed, and so it went.
But we needed food. A woman on the committee worked at the high school, where students had been shamed worldwide for the bully induced suicide of a 16-year-old girl. A group was formed at the school to help students regain their self-respect. Those high school students hatched a plan to put grocery bags on 1500 doorsteps in South Hadley, with a note asking residents to fill them with food. They chose Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. While 1500 bags had been distributed, 2000 were collected! The town responded with enthusiasm to what would become Bag the Community. One boy was heard to say, “Just think, I am only 15 and I can make a difference.”
Today, the pantry is its own 501(c)(3) and is thriving, serving not only South Hadley, but also Granby. A separate program called Granby to Go has been created under our tax ID. They are providing bags of food to 119 students on Fridays, with more signing up all the time.
With the help of an army of caring and dedicated volunteers, NHN is serving over 433 individuals, with most going to the pantry at least twice a month. The pantry is client choice, meaning people choose their own food, and they are not restricted as to how often they may get groceries. We belong to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and are supported by an amazing, caring community.
We value every can, each dollar and all the hours donated to the pantry. We are truly blessed to be able to serve.
If you are interested in volunteering or if you have any questions, please contact us: 413-437-7593 or check out our web site…
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