Lutheran Community Services’ (LCS) new client-choice pantry opened its doors to the community in February 2016, but this nonprofit is no stranger to providing emergency food services to Delawareans in need. In fact, LCS provides emergency food through 15 food programs in New Castle and Sussex Counties.
The client choice pantry is located within the organization’s new 6,000-square-foot headquarters off of Baynard Boulevard in Wilmington. This new facility has allowed the organization to consolidate its offices and better serve the community, as visitors can receive numerous services under one roof including utility and rent assistance, emergency food and much more.
Program Director Aaron Ballett and Assistant Program Director Jean Washington ensure that LCS programming runs smoothly. Washington oversees the choice pantry and is pleased that clients are able to choose the foods that are best suited for their households.
Washington once needed help herself so she understands the struggles that her clients experience. “I’ve always wanted to help my neighbors. It’s in my blood,” she says. “For me, it’s not a job, it’s a ministry.”
“This is our busiest LCS pantry now,” says Washington. “It’s hard to keep food on the shelves.”
The new pantry is set up like a mini grocery store with shelves, refrigerated and freezer space, and shopping carts. Accompanied by a volunteer for extra assistance, visitors walk down the aisles selecting foods best suited for their families’ needs. Grains, proteins, vegetables, soups, fruit, fruit juice, frozen meats, dairy products and miscellaneous items are all available. Visitors choose a pre-determined number from each category based on their household size.
The operation of this pantry would not be possible without volunteers.
“We go the extra mile to help the clients,” says Washington. “It helps when you have volunteers that have the same heart as you.”
Since retiring from Delaware Social Services, Ina Jacobs volunteers at the pantry twice a week. She works the front desk and greets clients. Each household signs in and then fills out an intake form to verify income. Once their name is called, they’re invited to walk through the “grocery store.”
Mark, Rebecca and two other volunteers were available to help clients navigate the aisles.
For visitor Shirl the pantry is a big help. “I am recovering from surgery and I love this.”
Before the pantry opened she said she “didn’t know where to go.”
Since starting at LCS seven years ago, Washington has not seen a decrease in the number of people in line at the pantries. “Numbers are not dropping. We have visitors who say ‘I’ve never had to do that’ [visit a food pantry],” she points out. “But that’s what we’re here for.”
On average, the choice pantry services 50-60 households per week.
Mark is interning with LCS for the fall semester and helps out in the pantry when needed. “The people here are awesome,” he says. “Everyone is motivated to help the community.”
For more information about Lutheran Community Services, please click here.