Christian Cupboard serves up 'a little ray of hope'
The Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf in the basement of Woodbury Lutheran Church is often a last resort for people, which is why its volunteers and employees try to make it as welcoming as possible.
"It's become a go-to place for lots of people because unfortunately our economy has changed so much that people who never thought of coming are now coming," said food shelf volunteer Sandi Brown. "The food shelf is a little ray of hope for people."
The Christian Cupboard Food Shelf is open every Friday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and the second Thursday every month from 5:30-7 p.m.
Christian Cupboard has been open for nearly three decades.
On average Christian Cupboard can see as many as 100 families per week and up to 200 families over the holidays.
Every week, Christian Cupboard hands out between 8,000-10,000 pounds of food.
On Saturday, the food shelf distributed roughly 550 Thanksgiving meals, which included a gift certificate for a Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, Jell-O and pies among other items.
A volunteer's story
Former Woodbury resident Brown, who has volunteered for the past three years, first became connected to the food shelf in February of 2007 when she was in a car accident that resulted in three back surgeries.
The St. Paul resident was prevented from working and had to go on disability, which brought her to the food shelf as a client about a year later.
"That first day was emotional," she said. "I wasn't used to receiving, I was usually giving - I wasn't used to asking for anything."
However, Brown quickly realized how welcoming the food shelf was and how much she wanted to be involved with it.
"I saw how caring most people were," she said, "and I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to give back."
Brown is usually at the food shelf every Friday, for five to six hours, where she helps facilitate clients.
"I listen to people," she said. "I listen and try to connect them with a resource that I know of."
Often, the people that come to the food shelf are nervous and aren't entirely sure what to do, Brown said.
"I don't know anybody who comes into the food shelf and knows what to do," she said.
When a customer comes in, Brown said she likes to take the time to talk with them and help them through the situation.
"Ninety-eight percent of the people who walk through the door aren't used to receiving like that, so some people are uncomfortable," she said. "First of all I acknowledge that they even have that feeling.
"People appreciate recognition that they are a person rather than a number - they appreciate being seen as a person."
However, Brown said the volumes of people at the food shelf have increased so much that she isn't able to connect with people as much as she would like.
Brown said she has greatly enjoyed volunteering with the food shelf.
"I know that it's a help to individuals and the community," she said. "Once in a while people come back and identify something that I said and say 'Thank you.'"
Donations always needed
With the rise in customers, the Christian Cupboard Food Shelf is always in need of donations, operations manager Carol Hanson said.
Specifically, the food shelf is in need of personal care items.
"They appreciate donations always," Brown said, "whether it's a little bag or a truck full.
"The more that comes in the more that can be handed out - there's nothing that goes to waste."
Brown hopes that more people find their way to the food shelf because it really is a place of hope.
"Twice as many people in the community need it, but don't come because of pride or embarrassment," she said. "Please, just try coming because this is one of the best places that I know of."