The West Point Community Covenant Church or the “Red Church,” as it is commonly called, has long offered a food pantry to the community, as well as other services and “ministries.” The food pantry, which offers commodity bags to anyone in need who shows up in West Point on Thursdays, has been operating for over 20 years.
The pantry has grown over the years, expanding out of a small closet to an additional deep freeze and hallway lined with large industrial shelves. Just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry expanded to provide a “clothes closet” as well, offering seasonally-appropriate professional clothing to those in need, making it easier for people to look their best for job interviews and work.
Now the church’s pantry will expand again to provide a job search station with a computer and job board, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Calaveras Community Foundation (CCF). In addition, the pantry will work to create permanent housing for the clothes closet and continue its focus on providing nutritious foods and other essentials.
The grant, awarded in October, stipulates that $7,000 is to be used for food, which will cover several months' worth of donations, based on recent need. Director Kathy Moon, however, says that “the need has been increasing” throughout the pandemic. When she took over directing the pantry earlier this year, she says the pantry was giving out food to 12 to 15 people, and at most 20 people per week. Now, on a normal Thursday, the pantry gives to about 25 to 30 people, including a dozen or so who go to the nearby reservation. Thanksgiving week this year, the pantry handed out 57 “turkey bags” with a complete Thanksgiving meal.
Moon says “the aim is to not just give them a bag of canned goods…but nutritious, fresh vegetables and produce if we can. …They need access to nutrition.”
The plan is to continue providing dry goods in addition to “stuff that you can make a meal out of,” like fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, and cheese.
Moon says she wanted the grant to do more than just fund the pantry’s food donations. While the pantry has been spending about $1,000 a month on groceries, they also receive frequent donations from church and community members. They recently received $2,000 from a spaghetti feed fundraiser hosted by the West Point VFW, which is carrying the pantry through the end of the 2021 calendar year. Grocery Outlet in Jackson and Cost Less grocery store have been regular contributors as well.
The rest of the grant from CCF is to be split, with $1,000 going to the job board, including setting up a computer station with WiFi to provide access to resources and help people find jobs. The remaining $2,000 will go towards a permanent storage option for the clothes closet, which is currently taking up a large corner of the basement room that is also used by the church for its Awana kids’ club and other social meetings. Moon thinks they might be able to renovate a storage shed already on the property, or else will have to build a new one where they can keep the clothes clean, dry, and organized.
The pantry is also working on partnering with The Resource Connection, which is why they keep a record of basic demographics for those who come to the pantry, to be able to provide clear records about how they serve people in need. Moon said, “It’s just demographics. Everything is confidential. We don’t ask for Social Security numbers or anything like that.”
Now when people show up at the pantry on Thursday afternoons, they are registered with volunteers who then keep track of their visits on a file kept by the pantry. This is providing Moon and her team with insight into the needs of the community.
“People (tell) me, ‘It's the same people coming to you every week. They're using this for their shopping, and using their money for other things,’” said Moon.
Moon continued, “If we only have 25 to 30 people coming, and I have 75 to 80 people in my book. …They’re not always coming every week.”
While some do frequently show up to the food pantry, Moon says it's not “who you might expect.”
Moon told the Enterprise, “Even up here, there's people that (don’t) consider themselves homeless because they have a car, and they're living in their car. Or, I have a couple of elderly people… with the cost of a mortgage or insurance and the gasoline and propane and electricity, and they're on a fixed income. Where they're cutting is their food. … I just feel that, yes, we’re a church, we’re ministering to people spiritually, but also providing for them, trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That's what we try to do. If it's giving meals weekly, that's what we're going to do,” stated Moon.
Thanks to the generous grant from CCF, the pantry will be able to “continue to feed and bless,” said Moon.
The Community Covenant Church Food Pantry and Clothes Closet is located at 22264 Highway 26 in West Point and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every Thursday. For more information, follow them on Facebook, or call 209-293-4226.