The congregation at St. John United Methodist Church in Avon village has a new take on helping those who need it.
You’ve seen or heard of the Little Free Libraries? There is one in Waves that I have written about several times.
The idea is that you take a book and replace it with another when you can.
The new pastor at St. John, the Rev. Gina Miller, had seen a social media posting about the concept of tiny free food pantries and she brought it to the congregation.
The concept is the same — you can take food from the pantry if you need it and replace it when you can.
Miller said the congregation was really enthusiastic when she told them about it and two members set about to build the little “house” to store the items.
“We want to be neighborly,” Miller said. “When I was a child, I remember many trips to our neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar or a couple of eggs for my mother who would be fixing a meal and realize she was out of something. We want to be neighborly to others.”
The tiny food pantry, she says, is “for everyone who might need to borrow a ‘cup of sugar.'”
Miller adds, “It is our hope that those who might need some extra assistance to meet their food insecurities would visit our pantry for needed items. Our motto is ‘Get want you need, donate what you can.’ ”
She said the food pantry was installed a few weeks ago and is already doing a brisk business, even though it’s so small.
Church and community members are putting in items such as cereal, soup, peanut butter, jelly, canned tuna, and pet food.
Miller said the items are leaving and new ones are appearing on a daily basis.
The food pantry is open, of course, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and all islanders and visitors are invited to borrow from it and donate to it.
The tiny food pantry is in no way, she said, meant to replace the island’s largest and oldest food pantry at Buxton United Methodist Church, sponsored by the Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men.
The village of Avon is no stranger to ministries that involve food.
This will be the fourth year for St. John’s Thursday night dinners, which are open free of charge to not only church members but anyone on the island who wants food and fellowship.
The dinners were started by church member Denise Gaskins, who said simply, “God told me to do it…He said, ‘Feed my people.'”
So she did — and still does.
Gaskins is assisted by Renee Hering in planning and getting the dinners started, but an army of volunteers help the two women cook, serve, and clean up.
Most nights, she says, about 100 people attend — from 100-year-old church member Manson Meekins to families with babies in carriers.
In the dark and cold of winter, the dinners serve as a place for folks to gather to meet and greet and catch up on the news.
Some folks could well afford to pay for the dinner, but some probably can’t, Gaskins says, and it doesn’t matter. There is no charge, nor is there a donation jar. But, she added, in various ways, the dinners get paid for by people offering donations along the way, from small to large.
“Somehow the money comes in and everything comes together,” Gaskins says. “It’s been a blessing to me.”
The dinners will start this year on Thursday, Jan. 19, and continue until the end of March. They begin at 5 p.m. and serving continues until about 6:30, sometimes a little later.