SALISBURY — Rowan Helping Ministries is expanding eastward thanks to a partnership with St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Rockwell.
The church, off St. Peter’s Church Road, will host a Saturday food pantry under the auspices of Rowan Helping Ministries beginning in late October.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Kyna Grubb, executive director of the agency.
Rowan Helping Ministries East will be the organization’s first weekend food pantry and will mean the agency offers six days of service across the county.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to add a day,” Grubb said, “because not everybody can make it Monday through Friday between 8 to 5.”
Grubb said Rowan Helping Ministries has been looking to add a third location since the success of its West Rowan site, which was launched in 2007. It was just a matter of finding the right partner.
Sean Barrett, senior pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran, said the church’s history with Rowan Helping Ministries goes back decades. Congregation members are regular volunteers with Jeanie’s Kitchen and have been helping at the shelter at least once a month since the 1980s.
The new partnership came about through the church’s involvement with Healthy Rowan, of which Rowan Helping Ministries is also a member.
“We are really excited about this. It’s been kind of a dream now for a few years,” Barrett said.
St. Peter’s Lutheran already has a thriving food ministry. During the summer, the church is a site for Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Summer Meals Program. A community garden is on site, producing more than 400 pounds of fresh food each year for local families.
“That’s what we do in all these outreaches is seeing ourselves as being the love of Jesus,” Barrett said.
That dedication is one reason Rowan Helping Ministries chose to partner with St. Peter’s, Grubb said. Over the summer, the church was one of two sites in the eastern part of Rowan to distribute Food for Thought bags to children in need. Grubb said she was impressed with St. Peter’s structure.
“They’re very effective at getting those bags to the kids,” she said.
St. Peter’s served nearly 60 students this summer.
Barrett and Grubb said the eastern part of the county was ripe for a food pantry because of its distance from other resources.
“It’s a pretty good drive into Salisbury from here,” Barrett said.
In an area where many people lack access to transportation and stores are few and far between, access to food or social services can be difficult.
“Around this area, people have some basic needs of food and clothing — particularly healthy food,” he said.
The area also has been heavily affected by substance abuse among some local families.
“That’s made life really difficult,” Barrett said.
It’s a combination of factors that can make a drive into Salisbury to visit Rowan Helping Ministries’ food pantry almost impossible. Grubb and Barrett hope the eastern site will help meet that need.
Chase Hicks, Rowan Helping Ministries’ food manager, said the organization has several clients who come in from the eastern part of the county. He said he hopes the congregation’s outgoing nature will help with clients’ transition.
“Hopefully, those kinds of connections will bring people in and around St. Peter’s,” he said.
The new pantry will provide food from the organization’s U.S. Department of Agriculture allotments. During the summer, the church plans to supplement offerings with produce from its garden.
“What we love is that they’re going to have the garden and be able to provide fresh produce,” Grubb said.
Rowan Helping Ministries has been working to offer healthier options and to educate its clients on healthy eating. The organization also is launching software that will serve as “a virtual case manager.” The program will allow clients to register for and access some services from remote locations and provide better tracking of data.
Rowan Helping Ministries East should launch Oct. 20 as part of St. Peter’s health fair. Anyone in need of the services may use the food pantry, regardless of where they live.