Garden City Residents Can Get Food Assistance at Our H.O.M.E. Pantry


Volunteers make it all work at Garden City's food pantry.

When St. Dunstan Catholic Church in Garden City closed in 2014, the food pantry it supported was moved to the Maplewood Community Center and given a new name: Our H.O.M.E. Pantry. H.O.M.E. stands for Helping others with Opportunities, Meals, and Empowerment. The staff and volunteers at the food pantry work hard to do just that.

Penny Klei has been volunteering at the panty since its days at St. Dunstan. She says church members became adept at organizing the program and bringing in volunteers, some who are still involved today. One such volunteer is Frank Neal. Neal, who was newly retired, brought with him a background in financial management when he began volunteering in 2008. His first task was to transfer all hand-written records to computer files, a move which benefitted operations, especially when the food pantry became a part of Garden City Community Resources in 2014.

Its location in the Maplewood Community Center means clients have access to a wealth of resources they otherwise may not be aware are available. Resources are available for adults, youth, seniors, and families, and address food scarcity, health and wellness, behavioral issues, and addiction. Pat Rybak is the Community Supports Specialist with Our H.O.M.E. Pantry. She says pantry volunteers are great at assessing what sort of additional helps a client may need. "I think that's what's unique," she says. "When a person comes in for their appointment, they sit down and talk to that volunteer, and that person feels comfortable with them and shares their story, and lets us know what's going on with them."

Rybak adds that the volunteers are what makes the food pantry program work. "They are the backbone," she says.

Garden City resident Karen Franklin volunteers at Our H.O.M.E. Pantry because she enjoys helping people. "It's been a joy," she says.

Neal says he enjoys meeting the people who come in for assistance. "It's just a wonderful feeling, actually, to be able to help people," he says. "I think I sometimes get more out of it than they do."

In addition to volunteers, Our H.O.M.E. Pantry relies on donations from individuals, organizations, and businesses within the community. The pantry hosts fundraising events throughout the year as well. Neal

says 90 cents of every dollar donated goes toward acquiring food for the pantry. "We have so much support in Garden City, bring that we run on just donations," says Rybak.

Klei adds, "Garden City people help one another."

Pat Rybak, Community Supports Specialist for Garden City, organizes Our HOME Pantry.

This summer will be Our H.O.M.E. Pantry's third year operating a garden to provide additional food to pantry clients. "It's nice to have all that fresh produce come into the pantry," says Rybak. Produce provides a point of education, allowing volunteers to inform clients how to store and use fresh produce to stretch the food dollar. Clients often share recipes with one another and spend time visiting or just hanging out in the community center on food pick up days. "It's like an outing for them," says Neal. He says the community center fills a social component of people's lives. "That's why it Our Home Pantry," he says.

Our H.O.M.E. Pantry is open to Garden City residents and families of students attending Garden City Public Schools. An appointment is required. Donations and volunteers are always welcome. The pantry is located inside the Maplewood Community Center at 31735 Maplewood Street, west of Merriman Road. For more information call 734-793-1859.


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