KEARNEY — The Kearney Food Pantry has settled into its new home at 108 W. Washington St. On Thursday, Nov. 5, community leadership as well as volunteers and board members celebrated the new space, located in the former Breathe Deep yoga studio.
Pantry Coordinator Suzanne Witthar thanked community donors during the event and welcomed a crowd to the pantry’s new home. The pantry serves food insecure clients in Kearney School District boundaries.
“And thank you to the clients who trust us as well,” she said. “We are here for you and we understand that stepping in here may not be easy.”
Along with cutting the ribbon from the Kearney Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Executive Director Stacie Bratcher commended the nonprofit for its fundraising efforts as well as extolling the mission that no one goes hungry.
“You guys are amazing,” she said. “Let me be among the first to welcome you guys home.”
The celebration continued as Jennifer Grossl, Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative marketing and communications manager, presented Witthar a check for $1,500, leaving the pantry coordinator teary-eyed.
“Platte-Clay will be aiding eight food pantries in our service area,” said Grossl. “We hope these funds can help fill in some gaps.”
The pantry was formerly located at the rear entrance of 113 E. Washington St., a space of about 1,900 square feet. The new space more than doubles the former location. The pantry needed about 2,800 square feet to keep up with demand, and with the new location, the pantry has roughly 2,900 square feet.
Lissi Staab, owner of Breathe Deep yoga, said she knew the nonprofit was looking for a larger space so she presented it to the pantry board before putting it on the market. Staab’s business is now located at 111 E. Washington St., near the pantry’s former location.
“This really was a perfect fit for both of us,” she said. “It makes my heart happy. I know it was a special place for me and it will be for the pantry as well. They have some space to organize and move around.”
Pantry Board President Don Shaw said he remembers the many iterations of the pantry including those early days when the pantry used closets at Radiant Life Church.
“Being in the new space, … everything is easier here,” he said. “We are also more visible. We need people to know we exist and be able to find us.”
Shaw, who has volunteered for about a decade, said he understands people have changes in their lives including job loss or illness, and a food pantry serves as a filler during a rough time.
Witthar agrees, saying in the current climate, established families in Kearney are falling on tough times.
“People are working from home,” she said. “Then we have businesses closing their doors. I know one mom who drove around the pantry, embarrassed to come in. Things have changed and pantry needs have increased.”
Currently, around 150 families come every two weeks for staples. There are also 111 elementary students and around 50 junior high and high school students getting items from the pantry.
Local volunteer Tammy Ball said the aid from Harvesters — The Community Food Network and donations from the local community sustain the pantry. In addition to food, the pantry also offers personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies to those in need.
“We are so fortunate to have volunteers who come in and fill the shopping needs of clients,” she said. “We have volunteers who go to Harvesters once a week and it all works for our community.”
Donated items can be dropped off from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 2 to 5:30 p.m. Thursdays.
There is a barrel for donations located at Price Chopper off Watson Drive for convenience as well.
For those who would rather make a financial donation, checks can be made payable to Kearney Food Pantry and mailed to 108 W. Washington St., Kearney, MO 64060. There is also a new monthly donation option called Friends of Kearney Food Pantry, found at kearneyfoodpantry.com/donations/monthly-donations/.