By Rodney Hays
Thanksgiving is still a couple of weeks away, but the local food pantry, Bethlehem Place, has been hard at work trying to make sure everyone gets enough to eat this holiday season.
Bethlehem Place started more than 25 years ago as a ministry of the Prosper United Methodist Church. In the past they distributed food — and at one point, clothing — to needy families in Prosper.
Now the pantry focuses on food and hygiene items to more than 200 people each month. In October the pantry’s numbers have skyrocketed to more than 300.
"This is a predictable trend before the Holidays," said Elizabeth Turner, one of the volunteers at Bethlehem Place.
According to a history of the food pantry, in the beginning empty baskets were placed in the church foyer to collect food. Church members received notices of needed foods. The notices listed foods such as powdered milk, dried foods, beans and rice, and canned goods. When the baskets became full, Dan Christy, a church member, made arrangements for the food to be stored and distributed from the field house at the Prosper football field. Distribution hours lasted for one day or longer depending upon the requirements of those in need.
The entire community has a hand in helping today’s clients.
"We rely on donations from our community to provide food to our clients," Turner said. "Food drives keep us well stocked in the winter and spring months. We also use financial donations to purchase specific items we need. We hope to become a member agency of the North Texas Food Bank. That affiliation will allow us to purchase food at a fraction of the price we spend at local grocery stores."
Turner said it costs about $15 to give supplies to each family. "If they need diapers, and the majority of them do, it doubles that number," she said.
For the past several weeks, the food pantry has been asking the community for help. Turner said the organization this week has passed the halfway mark to their goal for the Thanksgiving food baskets.
"But we’ve also realized that we’ll be providing more meals than we originally thought," Turner said. "We are now planning to distribute the makings for a Thanksgiving to 100 local families. That means that our estimate of $4000 was a little low. One opportunity we’ve seen in the past is grocery stores that offer ‘buy one turkey, get one free’ deals. We would love to receive that second ‘free’ turkey if people aren’t going to use it."
For those who can’t donate money or would like to do more, Bethlehem Place has needs there too.
"Volunteers for Bethlehem Place are needed each week to pick up pizzas donated by Papa John’s and bakery items at Costco," Turner said.
For more information about the pantry or to volunteer, contact Elizabeth Turner at 972-838-8252.
"We couldn’t do it without the support of this very caring, generous town," Turner said.