In 2002, shortly after the Watertown Church moved into our new church building, the board agreed to have a food pantry in a room that had been used as a choir room by the previous church. We got our food for the pantry from Feeding South Dakota in Sioux Falls, and for many years, to save delivery costs, we drove there to get the products.
The first couple years the pantry was open once a week until we realized we could no longer keep up with the costs of providing the food items. We tried doing it twice a month, and then once a month, but it was still a struggle financially. So for a while we discontinued being open to the public and only had food available to our church family, and others whom our members brought to the pantry. During that time we only picked up food every two or three months.
Eventually we learned that Feeding South Dakota had decided to deliver to pantries with a set delivery cost that was much less than it had previously been. So we decided to try once again having a monthly pantry day, and a monthly delivery. That has been the case for many years now, and our clientele has grown significantly during that time.
While we do have a “Donations” box in our pantry, we do not require or encourage any donations. Some people who come do make donations and some have nothing to donate. Our church family is always generous in helping support our pantry. In addition, a few years ago our board voted to have our pantry ministry receive a percentage of our church budget, and this has been very helpful.
The donations our pantry received last year from the North American Division were a tremendous blessing, and we were able to help many more people in a significant way. We have recently begun having our pantry open two days a month, with one of the times later in the day so those working regular hours can have opportunity to come to the pantry.
We generally serve from 70 to 90 families each month, with a total of approximately 200 individuals on average. We feel blessed to be able to help many who are struggling, and we try to be aware of ways we can encourage them spiritually as well. We have had occasions where we have been able pray with someone who seemed to be going through a rough time. We pray that the Lord continues to use us to bless others, and that we are always open to His leading. We want to be His hands and feet in any way He chooses.
Jan Rickard is the Watertown Church food pantry director.