by Mary Rupert
An anonymous donor has stepped up to keep a food pantry running in western Kansas City, Kan.
Janice Witt, the CEO of the Reola Grant Civitan Center food pantry, said she heard on Monday from a donor, who wants to remain anonymous, that he and his company would fund the food pantry.
He is not a resident of Wyandotte County but lives somewhere in the region, she added, and saw the story about the food pantry on the news. He researched the situation and decided to get involved.
“He said this was a God thing, and he was supposed to step in and make this right,” Witt said. “He won’t take any credit.”
She had not previously met him or heard of him or his organization, she added. He wanted to make sure people in need have a Thanksgiving meal, she added.
Witt said the Reola Grant food pantry efforts are no longer associated with CrossRoads Family Church, and that there has been a change in the food pantry’s temporary location, to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge at 7846 Leavenworth Road.
Now the food pantry will reopen as a by-appointment-only indoor food pantry at the FOP Lodge, Witt said. There will not be any mobile trucks with drive-through food giveaways there. The Grant food pantry no longer is participating in the mobile giveaway program after the last time, when traffic problems were cited as a reason for stopping deliveries. The Reola Grant Center and mobile food pantry had been helping 2,000 families a month previously.
Those who are in need may call the food pantry number at 913-948-4040, Witt said. Currently, it is restocking, she said. While it doesn’t have enough to feed the greedy, it will feed the needy, she added.
The number of donors now is multiplying for the Grant food pantry.
The FOP stepped forward to offer its lodge building as a temporary food pantry, she said.
“The FOP has been phenomenal,” Witt said. They were contacted by several members of the community and asked to help, she added. That location now has been certified by Harvesters to have an indoor food pantry, she said.
Also offering to help was the Delaware Masonic Lodge, with a “wonderful” offer, she said. The FOP site was selected because of costs associated with operating the other building.
“Both of those places made an effort to ensure we would be back up and running by Christmas,” Witt said.
Another group from Lenexa, Kan., will be donating some turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday, she said.
Now the Reola Grant Civitan Center needs canned goods donations and is welcoming them for the indoor food pantry, she said.
“I’m just so overwhelmed with the honesty and kindness in people’s hearts,” Witt said. “You think you’re in a battle by yourself, alone and no one cares. Then out of the blue comes this tiny little light. I’m so blinded by the teeny little light in the darkness.”
Witt said the Reola Grant Civitan food pantry is still looking for a permanent location.
She said it will continue to have a thrift room, with clothing, to operate when they get the food pantry back up and running.
Witt said the new face of hunger here is that people in all areas of the community are facing need. Some of the old ideas are incorrect about where the needs are, she added.
She cited an example of a family from the western area who were doing well until they were hit by an illness, and their insurance costs skyrocketed.
Some are not used to making their food stretch.
“When the middle class go to poor, they don’t know how to function there,” Witt said.
She said she is trying to help people manage their food appropriately.
Some families and individuals, she added, currently are faced with a horrible choice between heat and food.
From 64 to 69 percent of Wyandotte County’s population lives in poverty, she said. While some of the existing food programs serve predominantly minorities in the eastern portion of the community, the reality is that many more people are needy throughout the county, of all races, she said.
She said the face of hunger has been manipulated to appear a certain way. In Wyandotte County, it is actually white, middle class, a family with two children, with people who have worked in the past year, she said. They may have a decent car. Their children receive free or reduced lunches in school. For whatever reason, they do not feel safe going to the eastern side of the city to receive a free meal, she said.
She said she wanted to have a food pantry in the Unified Government Commission 5th district because she was not aware of much assistance there, while there was already assistance in some other parts of the community.
In former days, the western part of the county and city was an agricultural area, and the needy could glean the fields after the harvest for leftover produce, Witt said. Now, with the changing nature of the area, and the institutionalization of gleaning fields by organizations that distribute food, that isn’t possible for individuals who are needy, she said.
There are four Civitan groups currently in the area, including the Civitan SOCHI group, the Heartland Helpers Civitan, Civitan Club Dotte and Civitan Orchids. SOCHI, Heartland and Dotte are the supporters of the Reola Grant Civitan Center. Kathy Godell is the president-elect of the Civitan SOCHI. Andrea Behrman is the president of the Heartland Helpers Civitan. Ron Witt is the current president of Civitan Club Dotte.
Together, the Witts have provided much of the funding for the Reola Grant Center in the past.
Witt said Civitan also is continuing its Toys for Tots program this year, Dec. 9-10 at the George Meyn Center at Wyandotte County Park, Bonner Springs. More than 200 families are already registered for the program, she said. The signup period already has passed, she added.
The Harvesters mobile food truck now is traveling to the KCKCC-TEC location, the former Walmart store at 65th and State Avenue, on some Saturdays to give away fresh produce to the needy, in an effort that is coordinated by Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. The food truck reportedly ran out of food there on its first day.
The Grant food pantry no longer is associated with that mobile food truck effort, Witt added. Future mobile food distributions for KCKCC-TEC are expected to be at 1 p.m. Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 at 65th and State.