Fortunately, many residents of Pottawatomie County never have experienced the feeling of working a full-time job and then coming home to an empty cupboard, wondering how they will feed their families.
Unfortunately, many others have experienced that feeling; but with the giving spirit of fellow citizens, such as those at Simon Peter’s Storehouse, those families need not go hungry.
Simon Peter’s Storehouse is the name given to a “mission of love” and a building, located on the Living Word Church campus, 3831 N. Kickapoo, that has provided food for people in the Pottawatomie County area for 14 years.
“It’s a joint thing between a few different people,” Pastor J. Clifton Briscoe said. “Someone in our church had the desire, I supported them and it grew from there. It started with going to Larry Jones and him donating some food, which we kept in our baptistry. People kept donating food and we bought food and it grew, so then we built a building and now we have a large refrigerator unit — a combination freezer and refrigerator.”
Briscoe said one couple, Rick and Phyllis Howard, “have basically given their lives” to the food pantry and are the organizers of Simon Peter’s Storehouse, although at least 15 to 20, or more, volunteers help with the pantry.
“On any given Friday, at least 15 people help unload the truck with a forklift the church purchased — and they really work; the whole time they are here — it usually takes from about 10 a.m. to noon, they are busy working,” Briscoe said. “Tuesdays and Thursdays, when we are distributing the food, there are about 20 volunteers.”
The pastor said the volume of food distributed in 2009 is a good indicator of just how much work the volunteers dedicate to the pantry. He said a total of 501,505 pounds of food were distributed to about 3,856 families — 11,798 people — last year.
In 2009, the church bought 176,781 pounds of food and received another 324,734 pounds in combined donations from the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, from doughnut shops in Shawnee and from an area grocer.
The food bank at the “small” church is “one of the top three in Oklahoma, according to the Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma City,” Briscoe said.
In a typical week, between 50 to 150 families are served. However, in February and March the number of those served stays closer to 50 per week, “because that is when a lot of families are getting their tax returns,” he said.
Still, each week remains quite busy for the volunteers, regardless of the number of families who visit the pantry, Briscoe said.
“Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, they go get the food from the donors and a semi truck comes from Oklahoma City Fridays,” he said. “Tuesdays and Thursdays are our distribution days. On those days, the pantry is open from about 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. — sometimes later — and not only do they get the food but we minister the Word of God to them. They don’t have to hear the message but about 99 percent do choose to. And we have a Christian movie playing too.”
Page 2 of 2 - Briscoe said all that is required of individuals and families who are in need of assistance from the pantry is “some form of identification, proof of residency and a birth certificate or Social Security number for those in the family.”
Those who visit the pantry are able to return every other month, although those experiencing “really dire circumstances” are usually allowed to return more frequently.
“There is an incredible influx of people coming in,” Briscoe said. “The food is free ... anybody is welcome regardless of race, color, creed or religious affiliation. Any family can come at least six times per year, depending on need. Typically, a family receives enough food for three meals per day for 14 days per person — in other words, 42 meals per person.”
In addition to non-perishable food items, Simon Peter’s Storehouse also provides those they serve with a variety of meats, such as chicken or hamburger, and sometimes, fruits and vegetables. A separate clothing ministry also attempts to help those who are in need of those items; and a children’s ministry is available on Friday nights.
Briscoe said he believes it is important for others in the community to know the kind of love and generosity the volunteers at the pantry — and those who provide the money and donations at the church — provide to others in the area.
“We are not soliciting funds; we do not need it,” he said. “We just want people to know what these people are doing and how they are trying to help others. We’re a missions church, so I bring it up each sermon — there’s not really any special offering taken. We’re just a small church with big givers, so it always works out. Probably our biggest expense is the electric bill.”
For more information about the pantry or Living Word Church, call 275-7240 or e-mail email@example.com.
Johnna Ray may be reached at 214-3934.