by Elsie Walker
The Stanhope United Methodist Church in Netcong is also known as the “Church in the Glen”, and its bell choir is known as the “Bells of the Glen”. Recently, another part of the church took “the glen” name: “Pantry in the Glen”. The church has had a pantry for many years, but it has now upgraded that to better address the needs of those it serves. The upgrade grew out of a United Methodist program called “Team Vital”.
Church members Linda White, Carol and Walt Scheese, Bob Denner, Kristen Ransiear, Cathy Rinko, and Lynn Gremmo, plus Pastor Lynn Zaremba make up the church’s Team Vital committee. The program asks churches to look at five areas of “vitality” (Worship, Making Disciples, Small Groups, Mission, and Giving) and to develop a tentative action plan for each one, then choose one to focus upon. “After looking at the community demographics and meeting with town officials, we saw a need to expand our food pantry so that our church could further extend its outreach into the communities it serves,” said White of Stanhope.
“The food pantry was begun back in the late 1970’s when Rev William Edsall was our pastor. He and Marion Rush began it. Donations were from church members, scout troops and post office food drives, and we couldn’t have done it without NORWESCAP, whom we still purchase food from,” explained church Trustees President, Amanda Rush of Netcong. She also noted the on-going support of [Netcong] ShopRite’s Partners in Caring program.
The old pantry was in a small space in the church, with no refrigeration, so only non-perishables were available. Volunteers bagged food and gave it to clients. However, when a room which had been used for a nursery became available, members of the church s Team Vital committee started to envision how that space could be transformed into a new pantry which could better serve those already using the pantry, plus help more people.
The pantry was moved from its old space to the new one in August 2019; initial funding came from a variety of sources. After first using a donated refrigerator, a new full refrigerator and new full freezer were able to be purchased for the pantry through a $1500 grant from the Team Vital program which is sponsored by the church conference, the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey. Also, new shelves were donated by a member of the church. A grant from Walmart and donations from Shop Rite Partners in Caring, Netcong Township and a local book club were used to provide nutritional foods for the pantry clients.
The pantry now offers more than non-perishables and allows the client to pick out what they want from what’s available.
Described as the driving force for the expanded pantry, Rinko, of Rockaway, has been instrumental in getting fresh foods and non-perishables for it donated by a number of businesses, organizations, and local groups. Also, the congregation donates food for the pantry, not only at the holidays, but throughout the year.
Since the new pantry has opened, it has seen an increase in the number of clients served: from 4-5 per month to 42 per month. It gave out 22 Thanksgiving baskets and 23 Christmas Baskets (a combined church and pantry mission).
Walt Scheese, of Byram, said: “We find that the clients are very happy about the changes that we have made. They feel very comfortable coming to the pantry and are so appreciative of the fresh baked goods and fresh vegetables and eggs when available. We are also trying to supply items like toothpaste, toilet paper, tissues and other toiletry items. We have decided to highlight for the congregation different items each month that can be donated to the pantry, mainly items that we cannot get from other sources.”
In late 2019, the church held a contest to name the new pantry. Recently, the winning name was announced: “Pantry in the Glen”.
The pantry is operated by a volunteer staff, and new volunteers are always welcome. The Pantry in the Glen is open on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Pantry hours are 10 a.m. to 12 noon and by appointment throughout the month. Zaremba, a committee member or the church secretary will serve clients if they are made aware of a need. Volunteers also make deliveries to homebound clients.
For more information on the pantry, contact the church at (973) 347-0247.