During times of economic hardship, it's natural to start questioning what you're willing to spend money on. Trimming back even the littlest luxuries to pad the bank account becomes a constant chore. But no matter how tight the budget is, there are certain essentials that no one can live without: namely food, water and shelter. Costs may rise and savings may deplete, but those three needs remain.
Papa's Pantry is doing its part to help. With a philosophy that goes beyond simply offering a box of free food, this not-for-profit charity prides itself on finding long-term solutions for its clients. Household staples such as meat, milk and vegetables are the core of Papa's Pantry, but it's only the first step in a dedicated effort by workers to turn lives around.
"It's not just people showing up for groceries," said office administrator Tina Pierce, "it's enabling those people to fix the problem."
With on-site classes ranging from coupon strategies to the basics of finding employment, it's easy to see how the volunteers at Papa's Pantry pull this off. Each client is seen by appointment only to ensure a representative is available to asses the situation before he or she can register. In addition to allowing visitors to select their own groceries after they've been signed up, a visit to the pantry also means enrollment in a two-part instructional series designed to make sure they won't need long-term assistance.
"Here, you see the full cycle," Pierce said. "People who get help and go out, then come back as volunteers."
For some, getting there may mean completing the training for interview readiness or perhaps the extended success-building sessions available after graduation. For others, it may be a more personal matter best handled in the stress management workshop. Whatever circumstances caused finances to run dry, Papa's Pantry is eager to help.
What began as an ambitious one-woman project in a Woodstock basement has transformed into an ever-expanding organization that helps thousands get back on their feet. The journey started with a mission trip to India in 1998, said founder Lynne Saunders.
"When I came home from India, on my way back from the airport, a couple of things struck me," Saunders said. "One was a billboard for Gap Jeans, and another for Rolex watches. Then, off in the distance, there was a tall, old building with its windows broken, the curtains billowing out, a real low-income type of place. The clash just struck me. We have so much wealth and so many resources in this country. Why isn't it working?"
It was a question that led Saunders through a great deal of personal reflection, as well as to what she describes as a kind of spiritual awakening. The idea for the pantry, she said, came from a voice from above.
"I was working full-time and home schooling two kids. At first I thought, you've got the wrong girl!," Saunders said.
But her religious convictions won in the end. She knew she couldn't turn her back on what she was meant to be doing. Local churches and Woodstock citizens quickly pitched in with non-perishable foods and financial donations to get Papa's Pantry off the ground, and now they're preparing to open another location in Canton, after seeing the program's great success.
Faith-based beliefs have played a part in more than just Saunders' decision to feed the hungry. Volunteer Ron Coltrane first joined the pantry over a year ago because, as he said, it was consistent with his Christian values.
"I have been hungry in the past," Coltrane said, spotlighting one of the reasons he feels such a kinship with his clients. "And I did receive assistance. But working here is part of what I believe in. We need to help people when we can."
After 12 years of meeting the needs of struggling citizens, Papa's Pantry may be on its way to becoming a household name as one of the only pantries in the area to offer more than free food. Construction is ongoing at its main office to give the training programs their own entity, while donations are currently being accepted at four separate locations, including the TowneLaker Magazine. Saunders said she has built a thriving enterprise based on improving the lives of friends and strangers.
"The whole heart and soul of Papa's Pantry is to stabilize people," she said. "We're helping rebuild their confidence."
Email: email@example.comAddress: 6551 Commerce Parkway, Suite 200
Woodstock, GA 30189
Monday: 9:30 a.m. to
Tuesday-Thursday: 9:30 a.m.
Food: canned meat (chicken, spam, salmon), cereal bars, soup (no Chicken Noodle and Tomato), baked beans, boxed and packaged potatoes/ rice side dishes, boxed meals, canned fruit (oranges, pears, pineapple, mixed fruit), pinto beans, lima beans, northern beans, chick peas, canned white potatoes, and canned greens (turnip greens, spinach), crackers, cookies, kitty food, coffee and juice boxes.
Non-Food: Zippie storage bags, tin foil, garbage bags, laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex tissue, hand sanitizer, body wash and hand lotion.