Lutheran Community Services volunteer says “thank you” by giving back

May 31, 2022

The work of the Food Bank of Delaware is not possible without strong community partnerships! One of those partners is Lutheran Community Services’ food pantry at Unity Lutheran Church.

Richard Porto (pictured center with volunteers Melvin (left) and Shirlene (right)) has been volunteering with Lutheran Community Services (LCS) for more than 17 years. He runs the food pantry at Unity Lutheran Church in Wilmington. Thanks to a team of volunteers and the support of LCS, Richard and the team provide food assistance to the community three days per week.

He truly is the epitome of an advocate for a community free of hunger; Richard knows first hand what it’s like to be food insecure. This former bank vice president retired from his career more than 17 years ago when his wife suffered a stroke. He became her full-time caretaker. To make ends meet, he reached out to Lutheran Community Services’ St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church food pantry.

“Volunteering is my way to say thank you,” he said. “I was truly humbled that they were there for me during my time of need. I have been truly blessed. My life has made a complete 180.”

Richard has volunteered in many capacities for LCS. He recalled taking the bus to St. Phillips Lutheran Church (formerly on Kirkwood Highway and now in Pike Creek) to help with their distribution and then hopping on second bus to assist with the mobile food pantry at Hope Lutheran Church in New Castle.

Upon meeting Richard, it’s very obvious that helping others is his passion.

As the pantry coordinator at Unity, Richard and the team have created an inviting atomosphere for pantry visitors. He makes it a priority to get to know each visitor. “Come on in. How are you doing this week,” he said as a greeted a visitor.

Richard described the pantry as a small “mom and pop grocery store.” Visitors can select the items that are most helpful for heir household. “We want to give a better sense of dignity,” he said. “We have had people come in who felt embarrassed, but walked out of here with dignity. That’s a testament to the volunteers and people who are a part of the program.”

Richard is inspired by the community members who visit the pantry. “Knowing them and their stories makes me feel that anything I am facing in life is minimal,” he pointed out.

The pantry is stocked with nonperishable items like canned fruits and vegetables, prepared meals, cereal and more. Thanks to its Healthy Pantry Partnership with the Food Bank of Delaware, the shelves and walls feature nutrition information to help visitors make healthy choices.  In addition to nonperishable items, everyone also receives bakery items, frozen meats, fresh produce and healthy recipes.

Richard and the volunteers see approximately 30-40 visitors each day. The pantry is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.; the pantry reopens on Thursday evening from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. When the volunteers are not helping inside the food pantry, they are picking up food orders from the Food Bank of Delaware or perishable donations from retailers like Acme.

For Richard and the volunteers at Unity Church, serving the community and making people happy is what it’s all about. To learn more about Lutheran Community Services, click here.


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