The year 2021 marks 10 years since the ReNewed Hope Food Pantry first began in a small closet at the New Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas, United States.
Volunteers recently gathered at the Eagles Landing for dinner and praise music to mark this milestone. They praised God for bringing food and volunteers to serve the community over these many years.
In the first months, the pantry served about five families a week, Faye Martin recalls. Martin founded the pantry along with local pastor Chanda Nunes in January 2011. The pantry has grown a lot since then, she said, and this past year has been especially pivotal. “I believe God put it in our hearts to start the pantry so many years ago because He knew it would grow and be able to help people during this pandemic,” Martin explained.
The ReNewed Hope Food Pantry started in a closet in the church library, but in 2013, it moved into the adult hallway and classrooms. In early 2015, the New Haven church began operating a specialty food pantry with gluten-free items in addition to the traditional pantry. After two years, the church merged the gluten-free and traditional food pantries into one.
In 2015, the New Haven church started a community garden for pantry clients and neighborhood garden plot renters. That same year, the church began collecting items for sale and opened the Clothes Closet with clothes and household items. In January 2018, the pantry expanded service even further by adding mobile distributions twice a month.
In 2020, during the pandemic, the pantry expanded hours and moved to a mobile and curbside distribution model to serve people safely. The number of clients who came for food assistance tripled over the previous year. Expanded programs were made possible with the help of many volunteers from the local church, many other Adventist and area churches, and organizations and businesses in the community.
A look at some of the numbers helps explain the pantry’s impact. In 2020, ReNewed Hope Food Pantry provided food assistance for 28,633 household visits to 131,623 people. (For comparison, in 2019, the pantry provided food assistance for 8,545 household visits to 28,624 people.) It distributed 1,923,272 pounds of food. (For comparison, in 2019, the pantry distributed about 605,384 pounds of food.) From March to December 2020, the pantry operated with 537 volunteers and racked up 10,506 volunteer hours.
“Remembering the history during our church’s volunteer appreciation event provided a great way to say thank you to the many volunteers who have served over these years and who continue to serve,” local church leaders said. “We want to thank all of the many volunteers and leaders who guided the ReNewed Hope Food Pantry to become the community resource it is today. Also, we want to pray our neighbors who receive food will also receive hope and that their hearts will be thankful, knowing God provides all we need.”