CHANDLER — Many elderly clients on a modest, fixed income face the sad choice of whether to buy food or medicine.
Working poor are among thousands who come for free food at God’s Open Hands food pantry.
“We have a wide variety of clients that come (from) many, many situations. We have people come with a newborn and clients in their 90s,” Pat Martin, president, said. “Some people come just until they can get on their feet again and there are people who require our help month after month. They are just so grateful.”
The food pantry is supported with donations from individuals, businesses and churches, as well as with money raised by a thrift store.
God’s Open Hands Inc., a nonprofit organization formed by a group of concerned individuals from Chandler and Brownsboro in 1994, operates the food pantry at 104 Jones St. and the thrift store at 115 Broad St.
Both facilities are leased from the city of Chandler, but serve the needy throughout Brownsboro ISD.
Approximately 60 volunteers staff the food pantry and thrift store.
“No one receives any remuneration of any kind,” Ms. Martin said.
“This is my passion. I love to do this. That’s the same way with all of our volunteers,” Ms. Martin said. “They do it because they want to. We look forward to doing this. We don’t do it because we have to.”
She added, “You receive endless blessings … just the satisfaction of knowing that you can help someone.”
The food pantry provides free food to about 1,000 individuals, including up to 400 families per month, or about 12,000 people per year, Ms. Martin estimated.
The pantry spends up to $1,800 per week to purchase food to have on hand to give to its needy clients, Ms. Martin said. “We have been blessed that the Chandler-Brownsboro communities really support us,” she added.
Meanwhile, the thrift store is stocked with items that area citizens donate and provides an affordable place for countless needy people to shop. There are no price tags; customers are just asked to donate $5 or whatever amount they can afford for what they stuff into a grocery bag. A higher amount may be suggested for exceptionally good items, such as a leather coat.
Donations of thrift store shoppers help foot the food pantry’s expenses for food, utilities, repairs and maintenance, but its main source of funding is monetary donations from the community.
Clients may come to the food pantry once a month and may shop as often as they want at the thrift store.
Although non-denominational but drawing part of its support from churches, the mission statement of God’s Open Hands states that “all workers in the food pantry and in the thrift store are volunteers whose sole purpose for participation is to assist Christ in aiding His needy children.”
God’s Open Hands purchases food primarily from East Texas Food Bank and another food bank called The King’s Storehouse.
“We can buy at least three times as much buying through the food bank as you would spend at a retail store; it’s a much, much cheaper price,” Ms. Martin said.
The food pantry is “set up pretty much like a store” and volunteers fill boxes with food for the needy, Ms. Martin said. “It’s quite generous what we give them.”
Quantities depend on the number of people in a household, she said. Every food box contains pasta, macaroni and cheese, canned meat, canned vegetables, canned fruit, spaghetti sauce or tomatoes, Ramen noodles, soup, juice, cereal, frozen meat, bread products and snack items.
“We ask if they want rice, beans, flour or cornmeal and then we have a lot of extras we ask if they would like to have,” Ms. Martin said.
Extras can include vanilla wafers, coffee, chips, peanut butter, cake mix, hamburger helper, instant potatoes, pickles, ketchup, mustard and salad dressing.
“We offer them soft drinks and we always give them eggs, bread and dessert items,” Ms. Martin said.
Shelves are stocked with dry goods such as flour and rice, beans and corn meal.
Despite the many groceries that the food pantry gives the needy, Ms. Martin said, “We are not in the position to supply someone 100 percent with their groceries. We are meant to be a supplement. They can take what money they have and what we give them and it helps them stretch their dollar.”
Clients can take home books and magazines donated to the food pantry.
If they have needs other than for food, volunteers try to find some avenue where clients can be referred to receive aid, Ms. Martin said.
Thrift store clients must meet certain income requirements to be eligible for free food from the food pantry. They are required to fill out an in-take application form, giving information such as the names and number of people within the household and whether they receive aid from the Texas Assistance for Needy Families program or other programs. Recipients of Medicaid, Medicare, veteran’s benefits and Social Security automatically qualify for help.
Operation of the food pantry is the predominant undertaking of God’s Open Hands Inc. although it also runs the thrift store to help support the pantry, Ms. Martin said. There are no eligibility requirements for shopping at the thrift store.
Stocked with items donated by area residents, the thrift store usually has a variety of clothing for infants, children and adults; shoes, bedding, household items such as crock pots and dishes, figurines and other small decorative items, costume jewelry, gloves, scarves and purses.
“We cannot accept large items, appliances or furniture (because) we don’t have the room to store that,” Ms. Martin said. “Items we cannot use are never discarded; what we cannot use we give to Goodwill.”
The food pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, from 10 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of each month and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the fourth Thursday. The thrift store is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.