This last spring, a special line of over 20 volunteers waited to receive handshakes, certificates, gift bags and hugs. It was Food Pantry Volunteer Appreciation Sabbath at the Pennsylvania Avenue Church (Capital Heights, MD.) for those who had faithfully sorted food, bagged groceries and lifted boxes for the past year. Each was personally recognized by Pastor Richard James, Sr. and program coordinator, Jasmine Ramsay.
In 2009, members Tanya Davis, Jasmine Ramsay and Rachel Jones started the food pantry in order to meet the needs of those in Capitol Heights, District Heights, Suitland, Forestville and Washington DC Metropolitan areas. Then, they served about 30 persons with clothing, fresh fruits, vegetables and various food items. Since then, it has been managed by Rachel Jones as well as Pamela Allen and the client base continued to increase to over 65 persons. The church continued to see steady growth as the economy tumbled and many neighbors had to seek more creative ways to meet the needs of their families. During that time, an estimated 700 people were served.
In 2011, Ramsay, the present coordinator and community services leader, took over operation. Over the years, the program has grown to now serve up to 200 persons from the community twice a month. Under the guidance and strong support of James, the program obtained a large truck which allows the coordinators to meet the growing needs of clients. Each month, the church is distributing over 16 tons of food, pampers and household items.
In addition, the pantry program offers healthy eating classes with the aid of the Prince George’s County government and The Capital Area Food Bank in the more at risk zipcodes to encourage healthy-eating and living. They have also helped families obtain clothing and food that have experienced disasters such as loss of shelter to fire. The program currently partners with the household goods store, William Sonoma, to obtain household items which are passed on to clients in need. Through the program and hard work of the coordinators, the church has been blessed with baptisms from the community. The coordinators maintain that it is “Our mission is to love our neighbors, help them to meet some of their physical and spiritual needs as Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did. We do believe we are our brothers’ keeper.”