The generosity of Ocean View Presbyterian Church is nothing new. As Pastor Terry Dougherty explains, “We know we are fortunate, and we seek constantly to share our good fortune with all in our community.” Giant Food has supported the Sharing Pantry operated by Ocean View Presbyterian Church through its Bloomin’ 4 Good Program.
Tell us about Ocean View Presbyterian Church Sharing Pantry.
Our primary mission when the church founded, which was back in 1856, and ever since, has been to be responsive to the needs of Ocean View and the surrounding communities. We’re a congregation almost entirely of retired persons, most of whom were professionals of some kind in their lives and many come from Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia areas.
Ocean View Presbyterian Church has a long history of doing our part against food insecurity. We have long kept track of how our schoolchildren were doing and helped ensure they and their families needn’t face hunger.
We’ve got a multi-pronged focus on food insecurity here.
What services do you supply to the community?
For quite a long time we have participated in keeping the food stores of the Pyle Center (Edward W. Pyle State Service Center in Frankford, Delaware) well stocked, so that local people facing hard times have a place to turn for emergent need. But with the pandemic, the Pyle Center discontinued that service, so we scrambled to learn how we could still deliver food. We discovered resources and partners with the Selbyville Middle School, the Frankford Fire Hall and among our ministerium of 13 active churches.
We have a food delivery program going on right now that brings 40 prepared meals to the Frankford Fire Hall every Tuesday; Ocean View is on deck every second Tuesday of each month.
In response to the pandemic, we built a sharing pantry, which stands right out in front of my office, thanks to the master carpenter in our congregation.
In keeping with our mission to be responsive to the community, we have allowed our community to tell us what they need by observing what they take away quickly and what they don’t. It is simply a take-what-you-need pantry. No questions asked. We don’t do interviews. We don’t do any of those things.
We have watched our clientele change as the pandemic has worn on. Originally, people came at night, and it appeared mostly to be working mothers and working persons coming home from shifts and either needing a meal or bringing cereal home for their children. But that clientele has grown older, and they come in more during the daytime now. Right now, we are putting out well over a thousand dollars worth of food every month in the sharing pantry.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work you are doing.
We have relationship with Hocker’s Super Center near Salt Pond and a short while ago we had a very fortuitous circumstance arise out of that. Hocker’s had been preparing bagged food for people and found themselves with an excess. They asked us if we could make any use of 50 bags of dry goods, and we said that we could do it in a heartbeat. We filled up a pickup truck and took it over to Selbyville Middle School, which was so grateful because the Christmas break was coming and there were an awful lot of food insecure families that they were able to reach through their children in middle school.
We’ve got a multi-pronged focus on food insecurity here, including working with the wider ministry, building relationships that we leverage. The larger food banks in our ministerium are reporting at least a 50% increase not just in homelessness, but also in food insecurity over the course of the pandemic. And it has come really close to home. We’ve seen folks in minimum and lower wage jobs who just can’t hold their families together. It is a very bad time for food insecurity.
It’s easy to be unaware of how deep the food crisis is, but also there’s real fellowship in doing good for your fellow human being.
What sets your organization apart from other organizations in your community?
First of all, because we’re small we’re not delivering hot meals. We are delivering dry goods through the pantry. But I would say what sets us apart are the two sides of the equation. On the one hand, we have had community members come to us and ask to contribute to our food pantry. We’ve been overjoyed to say yes, and we provide a list of what we need and do and collect. So we’ve made friends of members in the community that we would not have otherwise.
On the other side, we’ve met the people we’re helping. Several members of our security team who walk the grounds at night and some other folks here at the church and I have had the opportunity to meet the people we’re helping. And their courtesy, the lively or quiet change, and their dignity are very meaningful to me. These are folks who are grateful for any small help.
What do you want people to know about the Ocean View Presbyterian Church Sharing Pantry?
That they are welcome to partner with us. We’re an older congregation and that can be physically challenging sometimes to do the things we do. It is delightful when folks come and contribute food to us, whether it is for Pyle Center, for Selbyville or for our Food Pantry.
It’s easy to be unaware of how deep the food crisis is, but also there’s real fellowship in doing good for your fellow human being. And we welcome anybody who wants to be of help in any way that we can either empower them or they can come work alongside us is very welcome.
How did you hear about the Giant Food Bloomin’ 4 Good program?
One of our congregants registered us and we were taken by surprise and thrilled when we were selected.
How will you use the funds raised from the program?
That money went directly into our sharing pantry.