According to Seven-day Adventist (SDA) beliefs, as disciples we are to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors, demonstrating the love of God to people who are in need. The parishioners at the Paw Paw Seventh-day Adventist Church (PPAC), whom we have come to know and respect at the pantry over the years, not only acknowledge this belief but they live it on a daily basis.
Sitting down with Jan Steffen, who co-leads the church’s food outreach ministry program, she provided a snapshot of how this particular ministry got started, and how it has grown in its relationship with not only Eleanor's Pantry but also with other nonprofits it currently supports and collaborates with.
In the 1980s PPAC began collaborating with the various home-based community ministries Eleanor Miller led from her home including her front porch food pantry. Eleanor, a lifelong resident of Paw Paw, addressed food insecurity by opening up her front porch where she offered a variety of gleaned food to anyone for the taking. In time our current Eleanor’s Pantry grew out of the strong desire of Paw Paw churches and organizations to coordinate efforts to more efficiently feed those facing food insecurity in our community.
PPAC's focus on food sustainability aligns perfect- ly with a core belief of the world-wide Seventh-day Adventist Church. It teaches that one’s body is the temple of God, and that Scripture instructs us to care for our bodies by making healthy lifestyle
choices. Eating nutritious food is one lifestyle
choice that helps fulfill this goal. Noting that many food pantries find it difficult to stock and supply fresh produce led PPAC to offer to provide weekly fruits and veggies to Eleanor’s Pantry.
When Eleanor’s Pantry was formalized, the congregation made a commitment of $100.00 a month of unrestricted funds. It continues to do that along with a y
ear-round weekly donation of fresh produce. “It is a firm commitment of the congregation to not only raise the funds for the produce and the unrestricted donation but for a team of volunteers to follow through on a weekly basis to shop for and deliver the specified assortment. Indeed after a few years of experimenting the consensus arrived at is now that bananas, potatoes, onions and apples are the top choices for our EP guests," Jan shares.
In addition to their participation with Eleanor's Pantry the Paw Paw Seventh-day Adventist Church hosts a monthly mobile food distribution in its sizable parking lot. Every 3rd Wednesday for eight months in 2023 a Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry truck filled to the brim with food arrives to an already long line of cars filled with eager but patient guests. Waiting to fill those cars with the allotted assortment of food are at least 30 volunteers of all ages, mostly, but not all from the church. When the last car has gone through the distribution line any leftover food items are welcomed by Eleanor’s Pantry. It is interesting to note that this year the church has served approximately 200 households each month.
Several years back the PPAC was also involved with fundraising and construction of the much-needed walk-in cooler and freeze
r addition to Eleanor's Pantry. This allows the pantry to keep fresh produce, frozen meats and poultry in inventory for guest selection and consumption.
PPAC's values of Worship, Belong, Learn and Proclaim are demonstrated by example through its parishioners and the resulting relationships that have formed through the years. “It is our absolute pleasure to feature the Paw Paw Seventh-day Adventist Church in the pantry’s Quarterly Spotlight and to thank them for all they continue to do for the pantry and our area communities. They are such a gift!”