Pantry draws ‘thanks’

A Hurricane Irma survivor was among dozens thankful to receive holiday meal assistance last week at Faith Lutheran Church.

Franky Lopez, who lives in Farragut with his wife and children, “shopped” for Thanksgiving staples at the church’s Shepherd of Hope Food Pantry Thursday, Nov. 16.

While the church operates the Food Pantry year-round, it offers additional foods at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“This is a good program,” said Lopez, who fled the Florida Keys with his family in September. “Since we came here, it has been nothing but great. We have been stunned how people have treated us; I can’t put it into words.

“We never had that [experience] in Florida,” Lopez added about his family, which includes his wife, Yamira Suarez, son, Franky Lopez and step-daughter, Samantha Garcia. “We didn’t want to go back.”

Lopez, who found a job on his third try, heard about the pantry through Farragut Intermediate School, where his son attends.

Jan Darnell, Food Pantry Volunteer coordinator, said the schools “work with counselors, and social workers, and they give out certificates the families can use to come and get what they need. ... They can pick food they actually like,” not being pre-packaged.

The pantry gave out 92 certificates by mid-November, “the highest it’s ever been,” Darnell said.

The Food Pantry offers a store setting, where the “shoppers” use a pre-determined list, and are able to choose what they want, rather than the items being pre-packaged and given in bulk.

“That way, and are going to eat,” Darnell said. “And, nothing goes to waste.”

For the Thanksgiving baskets, the layout was the same, but offered additional seasonal items, such as stuffing and sweet potatoes. Each family also received a hen.

The Food Pantry is open twice a month on the first and third Mondays, and is staffed and supported by two other Farragut churches: Farragut Presbyterian and Concord United Methodist.

Darnell said all three work together to not only staff the pantry, but also provide food items and funding to stock it.

It started the first Monday in November, 2012, “and one family came,” said Darnell. “Now, we stock for 100.”

She said when it started, there were naysayers who “thought there was no need” for a food pantry in Farragut.

“But yes, there is a need.”

Families might only come to the Food Pantry once or twice, still others may be regularly helped monthly.

“Sometimes we are a Band-aid in a bad situation. They may have unexpected medical problems, or their car has broken down.

“We also have grandparents raising grandchildren on fixed incomes, so there are several different circumstances [in which] we are able to help.”

“It is exciting to do what we do,” Darnell added. “And, when you meet someone like Franky, it makes you know you are doing the right thing.”