If there is one ministry that encapsulates the spirit of Jesus feeding the five thousand, it is the Oasis Food Pantry. In existence since the early days of Living Water Community Church, the Food Pantry serves an average of 30 clients per week. Multiplied by the roughly 20 years it’s been in service, and you’re looking at 31,200 households assisted by this love-your-neighbor ministry.
A Little Bit of History
Housed right next door to the Vehicle Repair Ministry in the Community Resource Center, the Food Pantry’s early efforts began in an off-the-grid closet of the newly-built church we worship in today. As the client base grew, and the need for fresh produce was recognized, the Food Pantry moved into a bigger closet wired for electricity until the CRC was built in 2014. Today this ministry is set up so that clients shop the aisles like they would a grocery store, picking items that match their needs and suit their tastes, thereby giving them some control over what they feed their families.
The “Oasis” in the Food Pantry
The Oasis Food Pantry is a three-way partnership between the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Living Water, and the Oasis Community Partnership. These three entities support the Food Pantry through grants and monetary donations. While food such as fresh vegetables, produce, and non-perishables are procured from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank inventory, the Food Pantry also accepts food from the congregation and local grocery stores and restaurants. If you are interested in making a financial contribution to the Oasis Community Partnership, please click on the link here: https://oasiscommunitypartnership.org/donate-1
While you’re out there, take a few moments to see what other community services they support, like the community playground and Vehicle Repair Ministry.
Who They Serve
The Oasis Food Pantry is limited to serving clients in the 17109 and 17111 zip codes to prevent overlap. The food pantry is open on:
Tuesdays 11:30 AM-2:00 PM
Fridays 1:00 PM-3:30 PM
Appointments are required, so please contact the Oasis Community Partnership at the church by calling 717-564-5152. If you are outside the two zip codes, you can check out the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank website for a food pantry in your area. https://www.centralpafoodbank.org/find-help/find-food/
Additionally, if you find yourself in a food emergency, the folks at the Oasis line can assist you.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Donate. Aside from your monetary donations, the food pantry not only accepts non-perishable food items, they also accept toiletries, kitchen supplies, paper products and baby needs. These non-food items are sold to the clients at 30 percent of the retail value. All of these items can be placed in the giant drum located in the church lobby.
Volunteer. Outreach ministries like the Food Pantry strive to provide a basic human need while meeting a spiritual one. Volunteers are responsible for signing in clients and scheduling future visits through the computer, and assisting clients in choosing food and packing their groceries. But this volunteer gig is also for people who are passionate about loving their neighbor and sharing the gospel. A warm smile and the “gift of gab” are important elements of this job. Best of all, you’ll always have someone there to support you, and you’ll get to work with some of the most passionate, loving people at Living Water. (I think I say that about all of the ministries.) Reach out to the church office if you think this ministry is a good fit for you.
Pray! Pray that those they serve will have their physical and spiritual needs met. Pray for protection over the volunteers and that they would sense and obey the Holy Spirit as they serve the clients. Pray that this ministry continues to get the financial resources it needs to serve this demographic.
My Humble Observations:
After gathering the facts for this blog, I stood the Food Pantry against the other outreach ministries previously written about in the “Meet the Ministry” series. The Food Pantry, Vehicle Repair Ministry, and Saturday Outreach were all created out of love for our community and a deep desire to bring people to Christ. The people who got these ministries off the ground are nothing short of visionaries who are sold out for Jesus, and counter-culturally, don’t want to be recognized for it. Maybe we can all take a lesson from their playbook.
Conversely, a special shout-out goes to Rhonda Ross, Kim Fersner, Serena Hanson, and Sherri Reasner who provided perspective, and photos, and endured my endless barrage of questions. They are the hands and feet of Jesus.