By Devese “Dee” Ursery
The Collinsville Food Pantry held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday to celebrate its move to a new location.
After 40 years in the basement of the First United Presbyterian Church the food pantry has outgrown that location and moved. The new location is 2009 Mall Street, in the Collinsville Crossing area.
The goal of the move was to include more services for its shoppers. Micaela Rodriguez, manager of the food pantry spoke about the tight quarters at the old location.
“We used their hallway and an office space,” Rodriguez said. “It was down two flights of stairs, so it was very strenuous for our volunteers. We just grew out of that space.”
To compare the two spaces, the new building is about 6,500 sq. ft. and the church was about 4,000 sq. ft. This extra space allows us the ability to provide more resources for our clients.
The food pantry will also partner with several local mental health and drug addiction centers to provide resources to clients. The pantry has a work center specifically designated to help clients create resumes and search, as well as search and prepare for jobs.
The food pantry is run mostly by volunteers, with three paid employees – the director, manager, and pantry coordinator. Before COVID, the pantry had over 300 volunteers a year but now they are down to about 15 to 20 volunteers.
“Since the new building is a one level structure a lot of our old volunteers that left are asking to come back,” said Rodriguez. “ Stairs were a big hindrance for a lot of people. A lot of our volunteers are seniors and retirees and stairs can be hard at that age.”
Because of the support of Collinsville Township and generous donations, the food pantry feels that it has the means to service its clients.
The food pantry partners with Collinsville Township to receive names for the Christmas holiday. The food pantry serves 200 families for Christmas and gives 100 families extra fixings on Thanksgiving. The 100 families for the Thanksgiving giveaway are first come first serve, until the food runs out.
According to Rodriguez, inflation has impacted the donations that the food pantry receives, but the pantry has been able to provide for clients.
“It’s always scary when we have to go from two visits a month to one,” Rodriguez said. “Even when COVID hit we were still operating with two visits. We didn’t stop and that has been a blessing.”
The Collinsville Food Pantry serves over 15 different communities and does not deny anyone. People flocked to the Collinsville Food Pantry because it was the only one open during the pandemic. Now it is trying to reduce demand by letting clients know that there are pantries in Bellville, Dupo, and St. Louis.
The mission of the Collinsville Food Pantry is also to help clients achieve self-sufficiency.
“We don’t want to just give them the food, we want to offer the help to make it better to where they no longer need our services,” Rodriguez said. “We try to give them the resources, any type of education that we can offer to help them better their situation.”
The new location offers a resource center where clients can search for jobs, create resumes along with a slew of other things. The resource center is made of four cubicles and four laptops that were donated anonymously.
Syd Wells is a volunteer at the Collinsville Food Pantry that wears many hats. He does everything from security guard to stocker. He loves helping people an
d he said that seeing the smiles on the kids faces fills him with joy. Wells works security at night and then after a few hours of sleep he comes to the food pantry and puts in about 6 hours.
Wells has volunteered at other pantries and explained that they have lost their touch and that there are no feelings involved.
“I volunteered at different food pantries before and this food pantry is not like any other,” Wells said. “Compared to other ones, this one has heart. When you come here you’re like family. It’s like when God touches you, you feel blessed and why not bless someone else. Everybody’s in need of help in some shape, form or fashion.”
The Collinsville Food Pantry also has the Tote Me Home program. In this program the food pantry provides selected children in the Collinsville Community Unit School District 10 with food every weekend to take home. During the summer months a tote bag of food is also provided to selected children in the HHH summer program at St. John United Church of Christ.
The food pantry also collaborates with Collinsville Township and St. Vincent De Paul Society to supply children in CUSD 10 with school supplies. There is also the Spirit of Sharing (S.O.S.) Soup Kitchen where hot meals are served every Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church, except for the last Tuesday of the month. On the last Tuesday hot meals will be served at First United Methodist Church.
Hot meals are also served every Thursday at St. John’s UCC. There are no costs and no requirements. There will be free hot meals and fellowship from 5- 6:30 p.m., every Tuesday and Thursday.