By setting the table, a food bank brings the community together.
Early in 2019, Jan Pasteiner took the twenty minute drive north to Flint, Mich., from her home in Goodrich. She pulled up to the donation center for the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (FBEM) to drop off supplies that the youth group at her home congregation, Lakeview Community Church, had collected. Jan had previously volunteered with FBEM and was known to the staff. One of the coordinators stopped her on her way out with an idea: “Our research indicates that Goodrich needs our services, and we think your church is the perfect location for a food pantry.”
Looking back, Jan can’t quite identify what lit up in her soul in that moment, saying that it must have been a “God thing.” But after years of searching, she had finally found something that would impact her, Lakeview Church, and their entire community more deeply than she could have anticipated.
She texted her pastor, Jon Grimshaw, as soon as she got back to her car: “I know what we’re doing next!”
Small but Mighty
Lakeview Community Church in Goodrich, Mich., is a small congregation with a weekly attendance of 30 to 40 people. It’s a common size for BIC U.S. congregations, 53 percent of which have 50 or fewer regular attendees. Though small, these congregations are often uniquely poised to meet the needs of their communities just as Lakeview has done.
Over his decade of leadership at Lakeview, Pastor Jon Grimshaw has led the congregation in many outreach programs, but none gained traction. That is until Jan connected with the food bank. It opened her eyes to the needs in her own community, and she couldn’t look away. “People in our community are struggling to put food on their table,” she says through passionate tears. “This is how we can reach them.”
The rest of the Lakeview congregation quickly caught the vision, and they got to work making it a reality.
The Table Food Pantry opened in late 2019 in a small corner of the children’s ministry room, but they soon outgrew the space. The BIC Foundation was able to partner with them through the Matching Grant Program, providing $1,000 that Lakeview needed to keep up with their growing impact. With the grant in hand, Lakeview expanded The Table to be a fully functioning market-style food pantry, complete with shopping carts and industrial-sized refrigerators and freezers.
Each Sunday afternoon, an impressive volunteer team shows up to run The Table, including Lakeview members, local librarians, school teachers, and even former food pantry clients. They have one thing in common: a desire to serve their community. This whole-community involvement is key to The Table’s success, and Jan’s interactions with these volunteers are just as vital to the ministry as the food pantry itself.
Feeding a Community
The Table now serves over one hundred families and distributes $30,000 to $40,000 worth of groceries each month. “To think that a little church is now helping to provide that volume of food is just astonishing to me,” says Pastor Jon. “But I think that it’s a testament to what is possible when you look at your resources and ask God what is possible.”
As for Jan, she couldn’t be happier organizing food donations, setting up displays in the market each week, and coordinating her volunteers. “I think I was born to be a grocer,” she says with a laugh.
This article was originally published in the Brethren in Christ U.S. 2022 Annual Report.