Nov 10, 2021St. Michael’s Necessity Pantry, a small pantry serving a large need

St. Michael’s Necessity Pantry, a small pantry serving a large need

Susan Rodriguez & Ed Freeman Three-minute read.  Resources
St. Michael’s, Independence. Image: Ed Freeman

The Necessity Pantry at St. Michael’s, Independence began in 2000 when several members saw the need to provide toiletries to individuals receiving food assistance. It has since grown into a community resource providing an array of personal care items.  After suspending operations in March 2020 due to the pandemic, a group of dedicated volunteers developed a plan to reopen the pantry as a drive-through to continue providing personal care items in accordance with governmental health and safety requirements.

The continuing purpose of St Michaels Necessity Pantry is to fill a void in the government food assistance programs for personal care items such as toilet paper, deodorant, shampoo, bath soap, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.  The outpouring of appreciation expressed by those receiving assistance from the pantry continually reinforces the relevance and importance of this service as well as a sense of accomplishment for those who volunteer.

After the pandemic closure, the volunteers developed a communication strategy to inform those needing personal care items that the pantry had reopened. This strategy included signs and flyers at local food banks operated through Community Services League, local churches, and the American Legion. In addition, caseworkers from Comprehensive Mental Health are allowed to pick up needed items for their clients. The results have been gratifying. In 2019 the Necessity Pantry averaged 55-70 households per month. At the reopening in July 2020, there were only 14 households. As more people learned the pantry was open again, the number increased to 77 households (160 people) in December 2020 and has continued to increase in 2021. In September 2021, the pantry served a record 137 Households totaling 386 people and October is on course to surpass that.

St. Michael’s Necessity Pantry is an entirely volunteer organization comprised of a small number of individuals that perform all required work including picking up supplies, maintaining inventories, keeping records, and community outreach. One volunteer serves as the coordinator, but the decision-making process is a community effort of all volunteers.

The Pantry has been a cooperative ministry by St. Michael’s, Resurrection, St. Anne’s, and Trinity Episcopal Churches.  The current volunteers are Ed Freeman, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Lees Summit; Jerry Baxter, St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Independence; Jolene Cerveny, Marie Weisbach, Frank Manning, Susan Rodriguez and Deacon Larry Allen, St. Michael’s in Independence.

The Cost of Growth

Line of vehicles at St. MIchael’s Necessity Pantry. Image: Ed Freeman

Before pandemic closure, all required items were acquired through generous in-kind or monetary donations from area individuals and churches. With most area churches closed in the summer of 2020, additional sources of support were needed.  An arrangement was made to obtain a limited number of items from a Kansas City, Kansas charity – Giving the Basics. In addition, applications were made to several local foundations for small grants. While these have been successful and have helped, the rapid growth of the Pantry requires an ongoing outreach strategy to obtain additional in-kind and financial support from the community. The foundation for this mission has been and always will be the ongoing support of individuals and area churches. For that, all of us who are involved with the Necessity Pantry will be eternally grateful.

Vision for the Future

Everyone involved in the pantry hopes and prays that the need for such a service within the community will decline as the pandemic wanes and the economy improves.  However, to the extent that the need is there, our goal is to become and remain a trusted and reliable resource of personal care items for those needing them in Eastern Jackson County.

For questions or inquiries on how to get involved, contact Susan Rodriguez, at:

Susan Rodriguez, St. Michael’s Independence, and  Ed Freeman, St. Anne’s Lees Summit, are Necessity Pantry volunteers.

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