WESTPORT – The Westport Christian Church (WCC) hosted the Gleaners Food Bank Mobile Pantry Wednesday, feeding many hungry people in Decatur County, as well as several in surrounding counties.
According to Gleaners Food Bank, one in six Hoosiers struggles with hunger. To many that number may seem shockingly high, but the need among low income families has been growing exponentially. This is seen in many area, but one can truly see the scope of the problem locally when attending event that offer free assistance to those who need it. Nearly 70 percent of Decatur County students receive free or reduced lunch, proving that many local families are struggling with providing enough food.
Originally, it was planned for the Gleaners truck to park at the church and to serve people from there, but the extreme cold and wind forced organizers to find another location more protected from the weather. WCC preacher Mike Bartlett went to a Kiwanis meeting to ask for volunteers and got more than he expected. Mark Koors, the owner of Globe Asphalt Paving Inc., offered to donate the use of his company’s warehouse just outside of Westport.
The Gleaners truck was parked inside and the people receiving food were able to do so in the comfort of a warm building because of Koors’ generosity. Koors said he would be open to the possibility of letting WCC use the building again in February for the next mobile pantry event if the weather should turn unpleasant.
When asked why he chose to donate the use of his building to the church, Koors said, “Our business is a service business. We don’t exist without customers. This is good PR for us and what Mike and the church are doing is a great thing. We’re both in the same business- taking care of people.”
Many people were cared for by Gleaners and WCC on Wednesday. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 194 families consisting of an estimated 800 to 900 people were provided a variety of foods designed to last a week to a week and a half. Cars lined up nearly to the highway at the busiest point, though the volunteers kept the line moving swiftly.
While Gleaners provides the food and the truck, the mobile pantry sponsor is required to provide the volunteers. According to Bartlett, there were 27 volunteers helping with the mobile pantry and all but three of them were church members. Koors surprised the volunteers with fresh donuts when they arrived. WCC is dedicated to feeding the hungry in the area. One of their ministries is a twice-weekly food giveaway in the basement of the church.
“It’s been quite an honor and a blessing to be able to partner with Gleaners and Feeding America to be able to get some much needed food to southern Decatur County and some other counties as well. We are looking forward to doing this again and perhaps doing even more in the future,” Bartlett told the Daily News.
Bartlett said there were no real glitches or problems during the mobile pantry event aside from some people parking in less-than-convenient spots. WCC plans to sponsor the Gleaners mobile food pantry truck once a month, on the second Wednesday of each. The next visit from the truck will be Feb. 12 at the Westport Christian Church. In the event of poor weather, the mobile pantry may be moved, possibly to Koors’ building.
“The church would like to extend a very grateful thank you to Mark Koors and to Globe Asphalt Paving Inc. for allowing us the use of the facility. It was wonderful to get people out of the cold air and into a warm building that was not only warm, but safe. We’d also like to thank Mark for the wonderful fresh donuts,” Bartlett said.
Sloan Shockley, the Gleaner’s Food Bank Mobile Pantry Coordinator, has been with the organization for 16 years. She became acquainted with Bartlett and WCC when they became a member agency with Gleaners to provide food to the area.
“We’re happy to be in another part of the county and to continue bringing two mobile pantries to Decatur County,” Shockley said.
Fed Ex also sponsors a monthly Gleaners mobile food pantry at the First Christian Church on the third Monday of every month in the Family Life Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Shockley said quite a bit of preparation goes into a mobile pantry event, which must be scheduled two to three weeks ahead of time to ensure everything is finished. While the mobile pantry truck can carry 10,000 pounds of food and feed 200 to 250 households, extensive planning goes into deciding how many families are expected to be served, how much food to bring and what kinds of food is available. Because Gleaners relies on donations, there isn’t always large quantities of the same types of foods available. Shockley said it can take three to four days just to package the food from the warehouse.
Shockley said the truck was loaded with roughly 9,000 pounds of food. According to Shockley, any leftover food is left with the sponsoring agency to distribute later or with participating agencies in the area.
“We want to make sure the food is in the hands of the community and the people who need it. It’s not our intent to leave with any food,” Shockley told the Daily News.
For more information about WCC’s monthly Gleaners mobile pantry visit or their twice-weekly food giveaway, please contact the church at 812-591-3807.
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004; email@example.com