Ahoskie Food Pantry excels

Published 10:10 am Monday, July 25, 2016

To the Editor:

Having been involved with several food pantries in several states, I’m here to tell you that the Ahoskie Food Pantry is a shining example of how to do a lot of things right. I arrived in Ahoskie with some strong ideas about how not to conduct a food pantry. AFP has given me many lessons in how to do it well.

AFP is community-based. Many social organizations, churches and private individuals host fundraisers, unload and pack food, grow vegetables, staff the distribution site at First Presbyterian Church, give money, host can drives and help with anything they can.

Some volunteers have been working with the pantry for decades; every month new volunteers join in the work. Old acquaintances are sustained and deepened. New friends are made. The atmosphere is cheerful and congenial.

Many food pantries are only open a few days of month; AFP is open from 9:00 a.m. to noon five days a week. This is only possible because so many folks are involved. I wish every food pantry could enjoy AFP’s deep and wide roots in the community.

AFP is led by laypeople. Clergy like me provide encouragement, seek grants, help locate other resources, refer folks in need, and write columns in newspapers, but most of the work is done by dozens and dozens of your neighbors. At AFP, clergy don’t lead; we follow. This helps explain why the pantry has been around for so long and why its prospects for the future are strong. Ministers come and go; the food pantry carries on.

Most importantly, we treat people like we want to be treated. Everyone, whether preparing bags and boxes or receiving them, is treated with courtesy and dignity. I wish more charitable organizations could learn the lesson that every human being is equally precious and entitled to the same care and respect. We’re all the same. Hard times come to us all. The one you help today may be the one who helps you tomorrow. (And, of course, we who are Christian see Jesus Christ in the face of everybody we meet. If you’re a Christian, called to serve others, everybody is Jesus.)

Perhaps the way we treat each other is what makes us really stand out. Ahoskie Food Pantry puts the needs of others before any other consideration. Instead of asking the question, “How much can we do with the resources we have?”, AHP asks, “What are the needs?” and then, “How do we find the resources to meet those needs?” Only the best organizations do this.

We recently became an official 501c3 organization, which, among other things, allows us to apply for grants from a larger number of outside agencies. All contributions to the food pantry are tax-deductible. But the people of Ahoskie and Hertford County have always been and will always be our central resource and support.

Next time, I’ll tell you about a new need, and how we can all work together to meet it.

Rev. Richard Goodman
First Presbyterian Church, Ahoskie