Carma Mohler Grant Spotlight | Iowa United Methodist Foundation

Calvary UMC Food Pantry

May 8, 2023

Calvary United Methodist Church in Ames, Iowa. The food pantry is housed within the church.

As the Foundation prepares for this year’s Carma Mohler Grant season, we were blessed to be asked to visit Calvary United Methodist Church in Ames, a 2021 and 2022 grant recipient, to follow up on the work their food pantry is doing. For the past two years, IUMF selected Calvary UMC’s Food Pantry as a grant winner (in 2021) to replace their old refrigerator and (in 2022) to aid in purchasing food for their partnership with Youth and Shelter Services’ (YSS) Transitional Living Program. YSS recognizes that there are youth (ages 16-21) in the area struggling with homelessness, and who are not supported by any government payment agency. The Transitional Living Program provides these youth with a safe living environment, food from partner organizations such as Calvary UMC, and an advocate who works with each client one-on-one to set independent living goals. When the food pantry was asked to partner with YSS in May 2020, they provided food one week each month for 5-8 clients. When we visited in April 2023, they were preparing orders for 16 clients and said they have had as many as 22 at one time. They also recently learned that several of the clients are survivors of human trafficking.

The food pantry’s normal operating hours are Tuesday afternoons from 2:00-3:30pm. Clients pull up in their cars, fill out an order form, then wait while volunteers fill the order and deliver it to them. They can request items such as pasta, pasta sauce, rice, cereal, canned fruit, canned or frozen vegetables, meat (ground beef or fish sticks), and toilet paper; these items are referred to as “stock” items. A unique (and wonderful) aspect of the YSS partnership is that orders are submitted a few days before the YSS advocate comes to pick them up; therefore the food pantry can offer “non-stock” items to these clients, including bread, milk (including almond or soy milk), eggs, condiments, and fresh fruit and vegetables. The YSS staff has shared multiple times how much their clients enjoy being able to select which foods they will use, especially fresh foods that aren’t available from most food pantries. The week the Foundation visited, the food pantry fulfilled orders that included bananas, grapes, carrots, lemons, apples, pineapples, and cucumbers. The significance of allowing clients to “grocery shop” for themselves, not to mention the nutritional advantages, is one of the reasons this organization was selected as a Carma Mohler Grant awardee.

Another way the Calvary UMC Food Pantry touched our hearts was through their mission work. They said, “Our food pantry project allows us to share food with those who need it, to get to know them by name, and to share what it is like to be a part of God’s family.” We could feel that they truly are a family from the moment we arrived; all of the volunteers are great friends and are passionate about the work they are doing. They buy cloth Fareway bags each month to package the YSS orders, attach a handmade name tag to each one, and often choose to add extra items when they feel the client could use it. YSS shared in their recommendation letter that Calvary provided extra food gifts to all of the youth in YSS housing over the holidays, which was a boost for all of the participants. As their Missions Committee Chairperson Jami told us on our visit, “We provide for their physical needs. But we hope that knowing someone cares, asking what they like and providing it, gives them spiritual and emotional support as well.”

Pastor Steve Campbell along with Food Pantry volunteers Deb Andrews, Jami Mirka, Sandy Roth and Peggy Riggs packaging meals for YSS youth.

IUMF is proud to support organizations like Calvary UMC Food Pantry, and we know Carma Mohler would be proud to see her grants being used in this way. You can support Calvary UMC directly by visiting their website and clicking “Give,” or donate to the Carma Mohler Grant fund by clicking here and listing Carma Mohler under “Mission Support.” Applications for this year’s Carma Mohler Grants will open on July 1st.