By Nancy Price
Economic hardships due to COVID-19 have led many in need to seek help from Southside food pantries.
A Greenwood pantry, however, has taken steps to nourish not just the stomachs, but the spiritual needs of its local community as well.
Following a mission trip more than 13 years ago, Johnson County resident and founder of The Refuge, Thom Hord felt led to start a local food pantry. However, he discovered that many churches did not have the resources independently develop and run one. After much consultation, prayer and planning, several churches united to support The Refuge, with a vision to provide physical, emotional, academic and spiritual needs of area residents.
“Since inception, we have grown to be able to offer a food pantry, seasonal needs and an after-school program,” said Kerry Carmichael, executive director for The Refuge. “We also offer life skill classes to help with specific needs. One of the biggest goals for The Refuge is to not just be a handout. Most of our clients come because they need food. However, we spend time with them every time they come into our building so that we can offer some encouragement and prayer through whatever circumstances they are going through.”
“I think that is one of the things I like best about our ministry,” added Stacie Ruff, office manager of The Refuge. “We establish relationships with them, pray with them and are able to give them undivided attention in those moments. That is one of the things that sets us apart from other pantries. We are able to greet a large percentage of our clients by name when they walk in our door. I think that’s what makes them feel special. It’s not easy for our clients to come to a food pantry, so while they are in our building, we can care for them and hopefully add some comfort to their situation.”
The Refuge plans to expand its current services and will be moving into a new building next month at 1150 S. Park Drive, Greenwood, 46143. Construction is currently underway at the facility, which will include private consultation rooms and a kitchen and dining room to allow for a hot meal service during pantry hours and a large room for afterschool care.
Volunteers are always in need at The Refuge and there are several opportunities coming soon. ”We are adhering to the social distancing suggestions, as well as limiting the number of volunteers at one time,” Carmichael said. “But as we prepare to pack and move to our new building, as well as serving our clients with the increased needs, we continue to use our volunteers as much as possible. Volunteers are a huge asset and reason for the success of The Refuge. We rely on them for a lot of contact with our clients. They are the ones greeting and meeting with them one-on-one. They are the ones stocking the shelves, cleaning our building, (assisting with) data entry and helping serve meals on a weekly basis. We are so grateful for every volunteer that has ever served.”
Carmichael said she is thankful for the support from volunteers and donations from the community that allow The Refuge to operate and grow. “We are sad that people are hurting, but we are thankful that we can provide items that are needed,” she said. “We want each and every person to feel valued and loved. We want people to know that God loves them. We want people to feel encouraged and not alone. We’ve been entrusted to care for the hurting. We will keep serving as long as there are people hungry, hurting or lonely. And this cannot be done without a community that comes together; and this is exactly why The Refuge exists.”
For more information, please call (317) 889-7338 or go to therefugeinc.com.