COOLIDGE — Despite the apparent need, when it comes to regular food donations, Hope International Ministry’s bimonthly food drive is now the only game in town.

On Feb. 18, the church officially added senior boxes from St. Mary’s Food Bank after Open Hands Outreach Program stopped giving out food boxes in January.

Pastor Anthony Warren said that after discussing the transition with Open Hands, adding the extra food boxes was a “no brainer” and that while it is a trial period, he expected a smooth transition.

“We want to serve the community,” Warren said. “Our whole food drive is growing, and we are excited. I love our volunteers and appreciate everybody who is pitching in. We’re not going anywhere.”

Warren also mentioned they had several new donors, including Shope’s IGA Market in Coolidge and a Fry’s in Queen Creek. With no live services happening, most of the church building is currently being used for the food pantry. The church recently purchased an external storage unit, and Warren said they were hoping to move the food there by next month with the goal of having the church back for services by Easter.

In addition to getting local volunteers, the food pantry has also recruited missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I really like volunteering here because they make it feel like a family,” Karissa Williams said. “They make sure all the boxes are fair, whereas in other places I’ve been to people are like ‘throw whatever you want in the boxes.’ It’s a very good process and we work hard.”

Another regular volunteer, Becky Campbell, said it is a blessing to be able to give to people in need, but also wondered why there aren’t more food banks in the area.

“It’s just crazy times,” Campbell said. “It’s sad and shameful that they’re closing down food banks because they can’t afford to pay rent. People are in dire straits right now.”

Warren said that they delivered close to 200 boxes last week, between the regular boxes and the senior meals. Warren expects to need more boxes next time as they hope to increase their messaging as well.

The church is also looking for potential volunteers for the second Thursday of each month, including March 11, to help unload food donations from 9 to 9:30 a.m.

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Aaron Dorman is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.

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