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In As Much Ministry Offers Food Value to Needy by Neita Geilker

Around three years ago, when Ava first arrived at Freedom House to visit the Link In As Much food pantry, she was almost overwhelmed. The large entry room where numbers are given out was full of noisy clients waiting for their number to be called while they completed a checklist of available items from the pantry. The next step in this highly organized process moved them into the room where their identification would be confirmed and where they would receive a certificate for a gallon of milk at Price Chopper.

Next, they were invited to sit at a table opposite a volunteer who could confirm the food items from the list they had checked and pass it on to the volunteers helping with that distribution. When Ava’s items were ready, her name was called at the pantry window prompting her to push her cart to that window to receive an impressive selection of the items she had requested. She then heard her name again from the commodities window and received a box of government commodities filled with surprises. At that point, she was free to select from a variety of bread and baked goods donated by HyVee and also to select from among the array of produce that had been contributed. Finally, she waited with her milk ticket to be called into an office to have it validated.

Completing that process, she rolled her cart, heavy by now, to the car she had come in and unloaded her groceries. Ava had heard about the food pantry before she was able to visit it. Off Plummers Way, close to the Clay County Health Department, it was too far to walk. Only when a friend offered to take her did it become possible. She can receive pantry items and milk twice a month, commodity items once a month, and bread every week. She is grateful to have a ride and has requested that another resident of her apartment building be permitted to accompany her.

In addition to benefitting from adequate nutrition for herself, on occasion, she can feed a child or grandchild who might stay with her overnight or even for the weekend.

Before using the resources of the pantry, Ava regularly walked to Price Chopper from her apartment near the Square and carried home what she could in shopping bags, but with diminished food stamps, she was struggling.

What Ava does not see at In As Much Ministry is the amazing volunteer structure, which makes the pantry possible. During the year, the 200 to 300 all-volunteer staffers (many from Second Baptist) work two shifts on Thursday and one on Saturday morning, with an annual value in services of $650,000. Although Ava struggles to face the crowds when she goes, she has no idea that the pantry actually serves 500 separate family units during the year.

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