Pantry 34 helps beyond food needs, giving ‘hand up’ to locals

A 30-something husband and wife sit at the kitchen table, a stack of unpaid bills staring them in the face.

Both people have part-time jobs, but their minimum-wage salaries and part-time hours don’t cover their rent, food, insurance, clothing, utilities and transportation for themselves and three children younger than 10.

In another case, a 79-year-old widow lives alone. She receives a hot meal daily from the senior center’s homebound meal program but just can’t stretch what’s left from her Social Security to provide two more meals each day.

This is reality for those called “the working poor” and seniors trying to live below the poverty level. These situations exist in Boulder City today.

Christian Center Senior Pastor Marjorie Kitchell, Senior Associate Pastor Jim Kitchell and Associate Pastor Russ Marsh have developed a way to offer “a hand up” for these Boulder City residents called Pantry 34.

“When you go to bless somebody, you are the one that is blessed,” Marsh said. “If people aren’t helping other people, they are missing out on joys. And the key to finding joy is Jesus first, others second and yourself last.”

The groundwork for Pantry 34 began several years ago when Marsh delivered bread, donated by Panera Bakery, and some food items from Whole Foods, to about two dozen families who were facing what Marsh described as “hard times.”

At the end of 2012, Panera Bakery told Marsh that he needed to become an “associate member” with the Southern Nevada food bank Three Square to continue receiving the bread donations.

Marsh discussed the Three Square partnership and the idea of a food pantry with Marjorie and Jim Kitchell. Pantry 34 was born.

The name was chosen, Marsh said, because the Christian Center is a Foursquare Gospel Church and the food bank is in partnership with Three Square.

Along with the Christian Center, Bethany Baptist Church, Lend A Hand, Faith Christian Church and soon-to-be-added Boulder City Assembly of God provide mentors and donations for Pantry 34.

Anyone in need can be referred to the food pantry and a mentor will deliver groceries to that family or individual, no matter their religious affiliation.

When mentors deliver food, they can also determine what a family or individual needs beside food.

On a recent food delivery, Marsh saw an elderly woman’s overgrown yard and enlisted some young people to clean it up, something the woman never could have done.

Then there was the woman who couldn’t get to work because her car wouldn’t start. With a mentor’s help, the car was repaired and the woman made it to her job.

The concept of volunteer mentors developed from the realization that the average, large food pantries cannot take the time to personally talk to all those who have to wait in line for food.

And some families and individuals won’t go to a food pantry because, Marsh said, they may feel humiliated by standing in line, or their pride keeps them from going there or they don’t want to be seen by others.

By delivering food to those in need, Marsh said, Pantry 34 mentors are able to “make a personal connection.”

“These people are not just hungry for food but for somebody to care,” Marsh said.

The delivery method also allows Pantry 34 to keep the identity of those they help anonymous.

Marsh said that if there are residents who don’t believe there is a hunger problem in Boulder City, “they are blind.” There are lots of areas in the city that “we don’t see. They are walled off to us,” but they exist just the same.

What was once a bread route, today serves about 160, both individuals and families, and the number grows every week Marsh added.

If you or someone you know needs Pantry 34’s help, or you would like to be a mentor, call 293-7773 and ask for Pastor Marsh. You can also drop by the Christian Center, 571 Adams Blvd. on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. to meet with Marsh before the midweek service.