Where: 1050 McEver Road, Suite B, Gainesville
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday
As manager of the Nothing Wasted Pantry on McEver Road in Gainesville, Patti Dixon said she knows the bags of household supplies and toiletry items she hands out will not meet every need of families struggling to make ends meet.
“We’re just trying to relieve the pressure,” Dixon said. “If we can give a bag that has an $8 to $15 in value every month, that’s money they can spend on toilet paper, that’s money they can pay on their electric bill. It just takes off the pressure.”
The Pantry is the newest ministry of Gainesville First Church of the Nazarene, which opened a thrift store last August to provide used merchandise in good condition at inexpensive prices.
“As a church, we’ve been trying to move from a program-based ministry to a relational ministry, being engaged in people’s lives,” Pastor Gary Huff said. “The question that we asked ourselves was if we would cease to exist would anybody notice, meaning are we making an impact in people’s lives? The answer to that was we’ve got to do more.”
Huff said the pantry and thrift store are ministries designed to help people.
“That pantry portion is a way to feed the funds of that store back into helping other people,” Huff said. “Really, that’s what it’s about, trying to make a difference for people, making life easier.”
Dixon, the store manager, agreed money from the store needed to be used to help others.
“This is not about building up a bank account,” Dixon said. “If money comes in, it needs to go out. It needs to be used; that’s why we’re here. Our original thought was that we would do high-protein food bags. Then, we realized there are four or five ministries in town that are doing food pantries. Most people who are financially on the margins can get food stamps. People have access to food resources.”
Eventually, it was decided to use thrift store proceeds to purchase and offer household items including dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, an all-purpose spray cleaner and dryer sheets. In addition, families get soap, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner in their bag.
“There are few food pantries that periodically have laundry detergent or tubes of toothpaste, but it’s not something they routinely have,” Dixon said. “We thought household items and toiletries are something people need, but they cannot buy it with food stamps.”
Paper products, such as toilet paper, are not included because the pantry is housed on shelves in a bathroom at the thrift store where there is not room to store larger items.
“If, at some point in time, we are able to move into a bigger space, we probably would add paper products,” she said.
The ministry has served about 40 to 50 families since March, about 10 of those coming every month.
“What’s most rewarding to me about The Pantry is making relationships with people,” Dixon said. “We have one young couple that comes in and they say, ‘We just barely qualify for food stamps. If we made another $100 a week, we wouldn’t qualify for food stamps. We’re right on that border.’
“She tears up every time I give her a bag,” Dixon added. “She says, ‘You have no idea how much this helps.’
“She called her husband over and said, ‘Look at this. They’ll give us this stuff once a month.’
He said, ‘We were sitting on our sofa in our apartment yesterday trying to figure out what was the cheapest way to get the toiletries we needed and the chemicals we needed and the toilet paper. You give us this bag of stuff and then it’s a no-brainer. We take that little bit of money that’s left and we go buy toilet paper with it.’ They come back every time.”
Like the thrift store, Dixon said The Pantry is also an important ministry.
“For people who are on the margins, sometimes just having somebody be nice to you is huge,” Dixon said. “When elderly people come in, I try to touch them. I just pat them on the back. I try to make physical contact because I have read that they may go weeks without anyone just touching them. We are trying to connect with people and not just sell cheap jeans.”
There are no requirements for those who want to receive items from Nothing Wasted other than filling out a form marking the items they want to receive.
“Eligibility is between them and their conscience,” Dixon said. “We’re not asking any financial questions; we’re not asking anything to be verified. If somebody comes in here who has six figures in their bank account and asks for free soap, that’s between them and their conscience. We’re just obeying the Lord and providing things that people need “
The pantry and thrift store are located at 1050 McEver Road, Suite B in Gainesville and is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, For more information, call 678-696-5560.