NEW CASTLE, Pennsylvania - A New Castle food pantry is giving people in need a place to shop.
When Terrie Cragle steps into the Neighborhood Pantry, it's like she's coming home.
"When I read about it in the paper, I thought this is something to help supplement what I needed. But once I got here, you had to come every week because of the people. The staff is wonderful. One thing about the pantry is you can choose what you want," Cragle said.
In addition to food, the pantry provides hygiene products and paper products. It's something a lot of the people who come here say they really appreciate. Many of them are on food stamps and they can't get these products with that assistance.
Instead of using money at the pantry's checkout, families pay with credits. When people sign up, they're given an amount of credits depending on the family's size. The amount decreases by about 25 % a month for four months. There is not an income limit requirement.
"Then they can earn extra credits by coming to our Square One class or cooking class or to Bible class and then if they attend any church, whether it is here or their church, three Sundays in a row then they get credits for that as well," said Tammi Barkley, Assistant Director at the Neighborhood Pantry.
Freeda Grossman, Director of The Neighborhood Pantry, said, "It's about dignity. When the people come in the door we want to treat them with dignity. We want them to know that they are loved and cared for and we go out of our way to do different things for them."
Volunteers from the Church of Genesis, who run the program, offer life skills classes which they call Square One classes. During their cooking classes, volunteers show people how to make meals with ingredients from the pantry and then they serve the entree afterwards. The goal is to help people better themselves.
Some like Thleatha "Mama T" Price have been coming here for two years. "Sometimes I might not go into the pantry if I don't need anything, but I still come every week to see my family, friends, and for the cooking class."
It's the nourishment beyond the food that also continues to bring Cragle back week after week. "I miss this place if we don't come."
The Church of Genesis has created a manual to help other churches interested in setting up a similar program. Volunteers have already helped a New Jersey church start a pantry. To find out more, call the pantry at 724-654-0889.