SHELLEY — The Shelley Community United Methodist Church closed last month, and with it went the North Bingham County Community Foodbank, but that doesn’t mean this is the end.
When a group of locals learned that Beverly and Leon Peeler were retiring from their years of service at the foodbank, they decided it was up to them to make sure the community still had access to food when in need.
“We understand that there is a true need in our community,” Kim Adams told Community Pioneer.
This group of community members created the Hand Heart 2 Hand Bingham County Community Food Pantry, of which Adams is a board member, to serve the people of the Northern Bingham County Area.
“The day-to-day operations, it’s still going to run relatively close to the same (as the North Bingham County Community Foodbank),” Heart 2 Hand board president Ross Foster said.
Foster said Heart 2 Hand is leasing the building that housed the foodbank and the church building next to it on South Holmes in Shelley with plans to purchase both buildings.
“In the months to come, we are going to be looking for financing to purchase the building,” he said.
Though the Heart 2 Hand board hopes to increase the number of days the food pantry is open. Currently, people in need can get food boxes Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Foster said the food pantry serves more than 400 people each month, but he believes many more need help.
“I don’t think we’re reaching the people that need to be reached,” he said. “We have lot more resources than we’re actually using.”
According to the Idaho Department of Labor, even with a low unemployment rate of 3 percent, more than 11 percent of Bingham County residents are living at or below the poverty line. Bingham County has a population of 47,202. That means more than 5,000 people are living in poverty.
“We’re going to get to all of the denominations and make sure that they know that we have more resources than we’re actually using,” Foster said.
Anyone living in either the Shelley or Firth school districts who finds themselves in need of food can get it from the food pantry.
“They don’t ask for your income. They don’t ask for any details. If you need food, you get food, bottom line,” Foster said.
Heart 2 Hand does have an online form they ask people looking for assistance to fill out. The form asks for their name, current address, number of people in the household, and their names and ages.
According to the Heart 2 Hand website, Heart2HandBingham.com, this information is needed to make sure the person lives within the area and how much food to give them depending on the number of people in the household.
They will also need to bring something with their name and address when visiting the food pantry.
If an individual seeking assistance doesn’t live within the area, Heart 2 Hand volunteers will help them find a food pantry near them. But to best assist those in need, Heart 2 Hand needs volunteers.
“We always need more volunteers,” Foster said.
The need for volunteers will continue to grow as the Heart 2 Hand board expands the food pantry’s hours of operation.
With her experience in the volunteer program, Just Serve, Adams is in charge of coordinating volunteers.
“I just really want to thank the community for supporting the foodbank. I’m really looking forward to working with them and providing for the needs of our neighbors,” Adams said.
Anyone wishing to volunteer can do so by first visiting heart2handbingham.com and going to the Volunteer With Us tab.
As well as needing volunteers, Foster said Heart 2 Hand needs more space.
“That little building is not enough,” Foster said.
He explained that to fulfill the need for space, they are going to expand into the church.
“It’s not going to be a church anymore. It’s been officially decommissioned as a church as of June 30, 2021,” Foster said.
However, he said Heart 2 Hand wants to preserve the building as much as possible. As well as serving as extra space for the food pantry, the old church will be a community center.
“That’s what we envisioned, that people could come in and do a wedding or do bigger functions as a community center,” Foster said.
They don’t plan on making many changes to the building other than some cosmetic upgrades and renovating the kitchen, so it’s more accomodating for large groups.
“We probably are going to doll it up, as it were, so that it could be used as a place to have a wedding — that kind of thing — and not feel as if you were having the wedding in a church per se,” Foster explained.
Heart 2 Hand is still working out the details of what it will cost to rent the building, but if someone wants to use it before the Heart 2 Hand board has figured that out, Foster said the building is currently available.
“If they want to get in touch, then we can make some arrangements to make that happen,” Foster said.
Heart 2 Hand can be contracted through their website.
Including Adams and Foster, the Heart 2 Hand board of directors are Shelley City Councilwoman Kim Westergard, Claudia Johnson is the secretary, Shirley Thompson, Louise Street, and Jennilyn Worlton is the food pantry director.