Monthly mobile pantry helps neighbors struggling to make ends meet

April 28, 2023

The Philadelphia Pentecostal Holiness Church just south of Ellendale is more than a church: it’s a destination for neighbors in need, a social services hub, a sanctuary, a rural community center. With operations straddling Old State Road,  the church organization manages three shelters, a child care center, a soup kitchen, an emergency food pantry . . .  and more . . .  ministering to people seeking help. As one of the Food Bank of Delaware’s community partners, staff and a handful of volunteers also set up a drive-through food pantry on the fourth Monday of each month.

Nearly 200 local families pre-register for this pantry. Cars can start filing through at 1 p.m. on that day, but drivers get in line early . . . as early as 10 a.m. Drivers can exit their vehicles during the waiting period to go inside for a meal at the soup kitchen. In April, the featured meal was a takeout pork sandwich.

Some of those waiting for the pantry to open were willing to talk about why they were waiting for a box of shelf-stable food and frozen meat for their families.

Delores, an 80-year-old great grandmother, drove from Harrington to score a position near the front of the line. She’s raising two great grandchildren, now 17 and 18; she’s been a guardian to “the boy” since he was just 5 months old. “It’s tight, and now I’m looking at the expense of their graduations,” she said.

In addition to caring for them, she also takes care of  her  grandson who lives nearby; he’s unable to work due to a stroke at age 40.

“I guess you can say that anything worthwhile is never easy. I’ve tried to teach them right and wrong. I think I gave them old souls,” she said. She paused, then reached for the books she brought to read while waiting.

A Bridgeville resident, Esther, also waited in line. “I don’t do SNAP,” she said, noting that the recent reduction in benefits didn’t impact her budget.

“It’s just that everything is so high now,” she said. Esther relies on her on her Social Security check and a pension from Allen Family Foods; she spent her life working in the chicken factory.

Another retiree, Henry, worked at the Rookery – the golf course in Milford – until it closed. He counts three members in his household; himself, his wife, and their small dog. “He’s a pain,” he smiles.

“I own my home, but the cost of everything is going up. Gas is going up, and heating oil, and then there’s the cost of food,” said this 74-year-old Army veteran.

Charles, 86, lives in Milford. He drove his van to this mobile pantry. “I’m OK. I’ve had my ups and downs, but I get here pretty regularly,” he said. Not only were his SNAP benefits cut at the end of February, his rent for subsidized housing increased by 10  percent. This Sea Watch factory retiree relies on his Social Security check, and he said he has to pay for his medicine before food; he has COPD.

“This food will help. My doctor bills are not covered by my Medicare,” he said. He doesn’t expect much support from his family. “They can’t; most of my family is like myself.”

Seaford resident, Martin, is a retired custodian who drives to this pantry every month. “You gotta do what you gotta do,” he explains. He and his wife are raising two grandchildren, and they were recently notified of a rent increase.

His financial struggles, he said, “food, mostly just food. Teenagers eat a lot. We try to manage everything else.”

Brenda Fields, who directs the program, says the church regularly receives calls from people struggling to manage with budget cuts and rent increases. Some needs are met through this monthly mobile pantry; sometimes people are served through the on-site pantry that opens on limited hours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *