How a Food Pantry Turns Tears into Smiles

When you approach The Capital Church Food Pantry in Garner, the warmth of the room pulls you in. Then the volunteers do.

“This is a huggin’ bunch!” said Iris Motley, the food pantry coordinator. “We hug everyone who comes in here. Because we don’t just want to feed them, we want to build them up, too.”

Capital Church Food Pantry provides food to about 600 people every month, except this month. This October they’ve served more than 700. To support the pantry, they raise money and collect food at the church and receive food through their partnership with the Food Bank.

Throughout the week they stock their shelves as much as they can, weighing donations, checking food labels, and tracking inventory. And every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm they open their doors to their community.

“I didn’t realize until I started volunteering here how much work it is to distribute food,” reflected a pantry volunteer. “One time two ladies came in. They only had a couple of slices of bread between their two houses. We gave them a little extra food, and they just started crying. That makes it worthwhile.”

Photo of Capital Church Food Pantry volunteers

Iris Motley stands with her dedicated volunteers at The Capital Church Food Pantry in Garner.

The food pantry has served the community for 15 years. Iris remembers when they started in a room the size of a closet. “I could stand in the middle of the room and touch the walls it was so small.” They have now moved into a larger space at the church. But Iris explains that the larger space has only meant feeding more people, now serving more than 7 times the number of families than they did just a few years ago.

“Almost all of the people we serve need food badly,” said Iris. “One gentleman came in with absolutely no food at home, and he had young children. He didn’t even have enough money to go home from the pantry.”

Iris says the economy hasn’t recovered for everyone, and as a result the pantry continues to try to fill an ever-growing need. “People are still struggling, and they have nowhere to turn. They still don’t have work, and don’t have enough food to eat.”

In the face of such hardship and heartbreak, the food pantry volunteers come to work every day with warm smiles on their faces. “When our guests walk in the door, we want them to be better when they walk out,” said Iris. “When you see people come in tears and leave with a smile, that’s why we do what we do. And it has given my life a purpose.”

Photo of Iris and Caitlin from the Food Bank

This week Capital Church Food Pantry volunteers were trained to join our Retail Recovery Program, which will allow them to pick up food including meat, bakery items, and community food drive items from the Kroger store right down the street three days a week. Pictured: Iris Motley (left) reviews program information with Caitlin Cohn, Food Bank Retail Program Supervisor. This opportunity will give the pantry easier access to fresh food and will ease transportation costs for the Food Bank as well.