By Jessica Groover
In the first 40 minutes of operation, six people came to the newest Cooperative Christian Ministry food pantry, Cupboard of Love, at Westford United Methodist Church on Saturday.
“We knew this would be a good location,” said Ed Hosack, executive director for Cooperative Christian Ministry. “We have no idea how many people we’ll see, but to have six in the first 40 minutes implies they may be busy.”
It is the second new food pantry for the nonprofit organization this year, with a total of six food pantries.
The other pantry established this year is located at West Point Baptist Church in Kannapolis. The church had already operated a food pantry and needed assistance, so they formed a partnership with Cooperative Christian Ministry.
Food pantries like these are becoming more essential to county residents. In February, the nonprofit organization had a 112 percent increase in clients compared to the amount of clients in February 2008.
Hosack also said Cooperative Christian Ministry’s crisis center has administered three times the amount of financial assistance this year than at this time last year. He said the biggest factors of these trends are unemployment and underemployment, or people working fewer hours than normal.
“If we can save them $75 on groceries, that’s $75 they can spend on medicine, utilities, bills, or wherever they’re feeling the need,” Hosack said.
Lorita Childress, of Concord, can relate. She was laid off from her job as a machine operator in October. Childress had not been to a Cooperative Christian Ministry food pantry in a few months, but she has had more financial difficulties since her husband was recently laid off.
As a mother of three boys, she was especially grateful for the opportunity to receive help from the food pantry.
“It’s rough because I don’t like to ask for help, but we’ve got to find a way to make rent for April,” Childress said. “I look at it as a hand up instead of a hand out. It’s just to get us on our feet because the unemployment office said there are no jobs in this area.”
Because Childress said her husband spends many weekdays looking for a job, being able to visit the food pantry on the weekend was convenient for her so that her husband could watch her sons while she left.
The two newest Cooperative Christian Ministry food pantries are the only ones open on the weekends.
“One of the reasons we’re so pleased with this and the (Kannapolis food pantry) is because they’re open on Saturday mornings,” Hosack said. “This is a huge plus for working families who are struggling.”
The newest food pantry also brings the nonprofit organization closer to its goal of having one in Midland. Because Westford United Methodist is so close to Midland, the food pantry is more convenient for Midland residents and others who live in the southern part of the county.
Westford United Methodist Church had approached the nonprofit just as Cooperative Christian Ministry was developing a plan to better serve the southern part of the county. The church had never had a food pantry but accepted donations for the nonprofit organization.
“There are a lot of members from our church who have lost their jobs recently and within the community,” said Pam Boyles, outreach chairperson for the church. “With the need growing like it is, we thought now would be a good time.”
More than 40 volunteers from the church signed up to help with the pantry that will operate every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The church will also accept donations on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
With Saturday’s opening attracting more people than expected, the church looks forward to the future of the food pantry.
“We had a huge response from the church in donations,” said Jeff Rushing, pastor at the church. “It’s a great outpouring of love. We’re glad people are using our pantry and making good use of the food people have donated.”
• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.