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I have always been passionate about helping people and I knew that we had people in our own community that needed help. Especially during the pandemic when so many people were losing their jobs. The state and local benefits offered to those in need did not cover everyday items such as toilet paper and shampoo. I knew that we could be doing better.

I came up with the idea for a pantry. The pantry at our church, Bethany Lutheran in Parma Ohio, is called Sharing G.R.A.C.E. with G.R.A.C.E. standing for Groceries Reaching Across Community Everyday. The pantry offers items you cannot purchase with state and or local benefits—toilet paper, shampoo, diapers, household cleaning products, hygiene products, and feminine products.

We were able to close that gap and support those in need. We didn’t want people to have to choose between rent and diapers.

We spent a month doing a “fill-the-pantry” drive and our congregation responded with an outpouring of support to fill the pantry and meet the need.

The pantry is for anyone and everyone: for people who might need one-time help or those that might need more consistent help to keep them going. I have definitely seen the pantry help people when they might be at their lowest. During the pandemic, we knew of people that couldn’t leave their homes and didn’t have enough income to get the things they needed for their family. We were able to step in, help them get back on their feet and support them.

The experience has been incredible. At the end of the day, all I want to do is help people, meet them where they are, and remind them that God and our church have their back in every situation. If we can help just one person, it makes it all worth it.

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