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Food pantry closing after 26 years of meals, prayers and inspiration from its founder
Vicki Baker, right, leads a prayer at a recent luncheon honoring volunteers for More Than Enough Food Pantry. With Baker are Joey Cleveland, left, Chris Reece, center, and Baker’s son Bill Baker. - photo by Tom Reed

Vickie Baker sat back in her chair as a friend held up a camera.

The friend asked the 89-year-old woman to smile. Baker grinned for the photo, though she said she didn’t actually want to.

She said she didn’t feel very happy; she felt a little sad.

Baker and several supporters of More Than Enough food pantry gathered on Christmas Eve in a beige office building off Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Gainesville.

But the gathering wasn’t exactly a holiday party. It was more of a going-away party.

After 26 years, the food pantry is closing its doors.

Baker and her late husband George Baker founded the pantry, which originally operated out of Providence Church in Gainesville. The church since has closed.

For the last six years, the food pantry has operated out of the building on MLK, Baker said.

"It’s time to shut it down," Baker said. "There are a lot of food pantries in Hall County."

She said she’s confident the other charities in the area will be able to help the local people in need. She praised New Walk and Good News at Noon for "having her back."

Baker said the decision to close was made for a couple of reasons. A grant from Cargill that paid the rent and utilities has run out. Rent for the office space costs about $1,000 a month.

The other deciding factor, Baker said, was a fall in July that broke her neck. The injury has limited her mobility somewhat; she wears a neck brace with a screw holding her bones together and can’t turn her head from side to side.

"Don’t tell me I’ve got a screw loose," Baker joked.

But ultimately, she said, the timing is right. It’s something she’s prayed over for a long time and decided closing is the best option.

"I’ve worked 26 years building my reputation," Baker said. "If I passed the baton on to somebody and they didn’t run it like I would run it, I wouldn’t want that ... it wouldn’t be the same. I’d have to come back and smack them."

In spite of her injury and the sadness she feels at closing the pantry, Baker wasn’t short on jokes. She and the other volunteers reminisced about the good times they had distributing food and other necessities to needy families in Gainesville.

Baker is quick to recognize that she couldn’t have run the pantry for as long as she did without the help of volunteers.

Some of the pantry’s biggest supporters have been Cornerstone Assembly of God in Flowery Branch and the First Baptist Church on Green Street in Gainesville.

Baker recognized the help the pantry has received from Big Lots and other donors.

"I never had a budget. I just did it," Baker said. "When God puts something on your heart he makes a way. Don’t ever forget that ... he’s going to get the people to back you up. I promise you that."

For a few hours every Monday and Tuesday, Baker and the volunteers at More Than Enough distributed food and hugs to needy families.

"I just love the hell out of people," Baker said laughing.

Her friend and a pantry volunteer, Betty Reese, sat beside Baker. The two women shared a grin. It’s a joke they’ve enjoyed for a while.

Reese said that it’s funny but true. Everyone who enters the food pantry gets prayed over.

"I’ve had people come in here and say that the prayers make more of a difference than the food," Reese said. "Some people come in here just for the prayers."

In 2012, the pantry provided food to 8,005 people. More than 300 of those became Christians after praying with Baker and Reese.

Part of the reason so many people kept coming to the pantry, Reese said, was because Baker and the volunteers love and accept everybody.

Baker said God gave her the desire to help the needy as a child when her mother would feed homeless people on the family’s front porch.

For a number of years, Baker and her husband organized a program out of Providence Church, along with several area churches, to provide homeless people with places to sleep.

That program that eventually lead to the creation of My Sister’s Place, a homeless shelter for women and children in Gainesville. Baker served as the resident director of the shelter through much of her 80s.

Sylvia Stoltzfus met Baker while serving on the board of My Sister’s Place. She said Baker’s love for everyone she meets is inspiring.

"When she was at My Sister’s Place, her big thing was that all the people we serve there just needed to be loved," Stoltzfus said. "When they walked in the door, it didn’t matter how dirty they were, the first thing she’d do is walk over and give that person a hug and she’d say ‘we hug here.’"

Though Baker won’t be coming to the food pantry anymore, Stoltzfus is sure she will find another ministry to get involved with and will continue inspiring and helping others.

"It’s contagious," Stoltzfus said. "I always felt like if I could ever be half the person she is, I’ll have accomplished something if I can ever get to that."

Denise Wilson would agree. She came to the pantry for food and prayers for three years.

Wilson said she was so inspired by the love she found at the pantry that she begin a ministry herself, helping homeless people find resources in the community that will get them back on their feet. She said she hopes she’ll be able to help people the way Baker helped her.

"She always loves everybody ... she’s just always there," Wilson said.

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