God's Storehouse celebrates 30th year in existence

Helping people has always been the mission of God’s Storehouse and for 30 years, the volunteers running the local food pantry have been able to do just that.

God’s Storehouse recently celebrated its 30th year of serving the community with the need continuing to grow. In 2012, God’s Storehouse distributed $57,000 in food, a steady increase from $26,821 in 2008, $44,145 in 2009, and $47,621 in 2010.

Mae Cartmell, one of the founding members of God’s Storehouse said they first established the food pantry in April 1983, in a period of economic recession similar to today. At the time, no food pantry existed in Wapakoneta.

Cartmell was part of a group of citizens, a local physician and priest who first met the year before God’s Storehouse opened to discuss what they could do to help area residents desperate to feed their families, who did not qualify for any form of government assistance even though they had lost their jobs at a time when several area factories closed.

God’s Storehouse was established as a temporary form of assistance until clients were able to “get back on their feet,” said Carol Berg, who serves as chair of the organization’s Board of Trustees.

“We knew there was a need,” Cartmell said, explaining people were willing to do anything to help their families and weren’t getting the support they needed.

As part of the organizational process, Cartmell said they visited pantries to see how they were doing it and took referrals from local pastors, who knew of families’ needs. God’s Storehouse opened with $700 worth of food on the shelves and vegetables, beans and a starch, the first items distributed to those in need.

From there the pantry began to grow, Cartmell said.

“It’s still needed and we help in many different ways now,” Cartmell said. “There always seems to be a need.”

In addition to food, referred families sometimes also receive clothing and household items if needed.

“It’s been great through the years helping people,” said Cartmell, who continues to volunteer with the pantry today and serves as an emeritus adviser on the Board of Trustees.

As long as she can continue to help, she will, said Cartmell, who works once a month in the pantry now and also sends out thank you letters.

God’s Storehouse is staffed by 54 regular volunteers, plus others who assist with food drives and other special projects.

God’s Storehouse Board member Joy Kantner said recently a former client came up to her and told her how much their help was appreciated, that they couldn’t have gotten by without it.

It’s reminders like that that lets the group know what they are doing is making a difference, they said.

Sometimes the “thank yous” also come in the form of hugs, while many give back to the pantry once things are better in their lives, Berg said.

Clients are referred by area pastors, Auglaize County Job and Family Services, the Auglaize County Crisis Center, St. Vincent DePaul — a nonprofit organization helping meet a variety of needs for people — and other agencies and the non-profit charity partners with St. Vincent DePaul to screen potential clients. A three-point check system between God’s Storehouse, St. Vincent DePaul and Mercy Unlimited, a non-profit Christian ministry also tending to community members’ needs, ensures that services are not being duplicated and those who need them most are getting them, Berg said.

Clients shop weekly for groceries and are referred for four consecutive weeks at a time. The amount of groceries they receive is based on their family’s size. For clients receiving food stamps, they may receive items food stamps may not be used for, including paper products, hygiene and health items and cleaning supplies. Milk vouchers also are available for Walmart.

God’s Storehouse, located at 107 W. Pearl St., is open from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday through Saturday, with clients able to get food any time during those hours. At this time, 264 people receive assistance from God’s Storehouse, with all clients shopping weekly. In April, God’s Storehouse dispensed $3,827.50 in food and groceries.

Berg said support for the food pantry comes from many local churches, service organizations, civic groups, clubs, businesses and individuals. In addition to the food pantry, God’s Storehouse also operates a thrift store, which is open to the public, with 100 percent of sales going toward the purchase of food.

“God’s Storehouse is very appreciative of the community support we have received,” Berg said. “We are happy to be celebrating 30 years. The clients are the reason we are here.”