The Nolensville Food Pantry is preparing to distribute holiday food and gift boxes for those in need this Thanksgiving and Christmas as the amount of recipients and donors grow.
Each week Mondays through Wednesdays Debbie Noland and her volunteers compile boxes full of canned and dry goods in order to distribute them to recipients on Thursdays.
Noland said that they were serving 50 to 60 families in March and now she has more than 100 families on a list, with some coming on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis as needed.
"We're serving about 120 families now," Noland said, adding that they've been able to not just feed families but help them build up a stock of goods in their home pantries so that they never have to go hungry.
"The past two weeks we've given out Halloween costumes that people dropped off, we've given out clothes that have just come in, you name it," Noland said. "It's been an interesting go this last little bit."
Boxes packed with goods and racks with canned goods lined the wall of the food pantry's garage while piles of toilet paper, bananas, potatoes, onions, canned ravioli, fresh bread, baked goods, bags of assorted snacks and more filled the room in what Noland called "controlled chaos."
Having just filled boxes for recipients she was preparing to rotate stock, moving goods dropped off earlier in the day to shelves in a never-ending process of stuffing shelves then boxes in an effort to help those in need.
When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic first disrupted the home lives and jobs of residents in the spring, the pantry began to distribute more food than they had done previously. They continued doing so throughout the summer.
Due to the pandemic Noland said that they've reorganized how they store and distribute the food, moving from a shopping-style experience where recipients came in and picked out goods to picking up pre-packaged boxes under a tent.
In addition to food, the pantry has been distributing gently used car seats, diapers for both children and adults, baby formula and clothing in partnership with The Community Closet, another Nolensville-based organization.
Noland said that the pandemic has posed a lot of unique challenges that included changing how the group normally celebrates Christmas.
In past years volunteers would gather presents for recipients but this year they are handing out gift cards to both help with their limited space and in an attempt to keep volunteers and recipients safe.
The Nolensville Food Pantry is accepting gift card donations in the amounts of $10 to $100 which can be purchased and dropped off to the pantry or a monetary donation can be made via their website specifically for the purchase of a gift card.
Noland said that she encourages those willing to donate gift cards to those in need to use universally-accepted gift cards such as prepaid Visa or American Express gift cards or ones for big box retailers like Walmart or Target where a recipient is able to use the cards for a variety of items that they may need.
Noland also said that if someone is willing to donate a larger amount such as a $100 that they would prefer that the donation be made with several cards in smaller amounts, such as four $25 gift cards.
This, she said, will help volunteers distribute the cards more effectively to families who may have several children at different ages, allowing for a more impactful gift during the holidays.
"We'll split them up and bless everybody," Noland said, adding that they expect to donated holiday boxes to around 200 families.
Noland said while she never expected that the pandemic would have had as much impact as it has, that the need continues, and with that the support from the community who are able to give has continued.
"I do know that we've got really faithful givers who, when they go to the grocery store, may pick up two extra cans of green beans and they just drop off that little extra all the time… that little bit of extra through all this time has kept us going," Noland said.
I'm not even going to question it because at first I did," Noland said. "I said, 'How are we going to do this every week, how are going to keep it going, where's the food going to come from, am I going to be able to buy diapers?' Finally I just said, 'You know what, God's going to take care of this, I'm not going to worry about it, and he has."
The Nolensville Food Pantry is a ministry of Providence Baptist Church and is located at 1668 Sunset Road.