April 28, 2016
by Jennifer Ulrich
Serves with Patchwork Pantry and resides in Harrisonburg, Va.

Patchwork Pantry: a ministry of multiple congregations serving the food insecure

Every Wednesday evening, people from many walks of life come together to help provide food to persons who are food insecure in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County area of Virginia. Patchwork Panty’s mission is to provide a three-day supply of food for its clients.

Virginia Mennonite Conference congregations in the local area have been strong supporters of Patchwork Pantry since its beginning. Community Mennonite Church has housed the pantry since its opening in 1992, because its founding director, Sheri Hartzler, attended the church. The pantry uses the sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen and a Sunday school room each Wednesday night.

For the last few years a pastor and member of Community Mennonite Church have developed a visitation and prayer ministry with Pantry clients. Conversation topics include family, unemployment, health, addictions, immigration status, incarceration, and faith. As the prayer ministry team visits and prays in the sanctuary, the stained glass and worship visuals are constant reminders that God is holding us all together and invites us into faith amidst the struggles that persist in our community.

The pantry uses approximately 25 volunteers each week to staff the various positions. Most recently groups from Zion, Park View, Harrisonburg, Eastside and Ridgeway have staffed the pantry. In January, a group of mentor/mentee pairs from Zion volunteered.

Dawn Nyce, of Zion Mennonite Church, helped out that night with her mentee Jessica. She commented, “It was good to see the needs of the community of Harrisonburg and, together with my mentee, be able to help those needs in a small way.”

Peyton Erb, of Park View Mennonite Church, works once a month as an evening supervisor. She commented “I love being connected to the community in a very different way from my job or church life. I enjoy collaborating with other church groups who volunteer at pantry, being able to use my Spanish skills to serve clients, and also being informed about resources in our community that may be of use to my families at school as well.”

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Volunteers from Zion Mennonite Church bag groceries for pantry clients. From left to right: Jennifer Showalter, Emma Resto, Jessica Showalter, Evan Bert, Dawn Nyce. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ulrich
Volunteers from Zion Mennonite Church bag groceries for pantry clients. From left to right: Jennifer Showalter, Emma Resto, Jessica Showalter, Evan Bert, Dawn Nyce. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ulrich

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Churches are involved in providing the food that is handed out as well. Weavers Mennonite Church started a garden project which provides fresh produce and at one time flowers to pantry clients. Park View Mennonite does a monthly food drive and supports the pantry financially.

Individuals from VMC congregations also support the pantry through regular volunteering. Board member and volunteer Jay Landis said, “My own interest in the needs of the pantry clientele matches my volunteer job at the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic, which serves the health needs of disadvantaged persons. Everyone deserves sufficient food and care for their health and welfare.”

Some other ways individuals have been involved include a Christmas program to clients by the Harrisonburg Mennonite Church children’s choir, and a group of women who crochet/knit scarves for clients.

Kathy Gerber, of Eastside Church, sums up this way: “As volunteer coordinator, I am always amazed at those who unselfishly give of their time on a regular basis. You may come in after a full day of work tired, but leave feeling refreshed. Clients are very thankful for the canned goods and fresh produce. I leave with a humble heart knowing many in my own community have little food while I have a full pantry and refrigerator at home. I can give two hours of my time to help fill grocery bags or interview clients, help clients to their cars, or just say a kind word to do what Jesus has commanded us to do—love our neighbors. I am serving in my own community!”

Patchwork Pantry is truly grateful for the support from Virginia Mennonite Conference congregations. Contact the pantry at patchworkpantry@gmail.com or learn more at their website or Facebook page.

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