Fortville churches hope to establish local food pantry

The Hancock County Food Pantry at 741½ S. State St. in Greenfield is the county's only fixed-site pantry. A group of churches in Fortville wants to create a similar, permanent site in Vernon Township. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

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FORTVILLE — In an effort to fight hunger in their communities, six Vernon Township churches have banded together to form a new organization, tentatively called For Fortville Christians United.

The six churches — Fortville Christian Church, New Life Christian Fellowship, Fortville United Methodist Church, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, the Bridge Church and Fortville Church of the Nazarene — are hoping to find a location where they can establish a permanent local food pantry.

By combining their resources, the churches have been able to bring a Gleaners mobile food pantry to the Fortville area during the summer months and to create Thanksgiving boxes of food for families in need.

One person involved in the project is Theresa Werking, administrator of faith formation at St. Thomas. Werking said the project kicked into high gear about a year ago when former Vernon Township trustee Jim Nolte was leaving office. Werking said Nolte saw creating a food pantry as an important goal for the community and helped set up an organization that would be able to continue that work.

“We’ve been meeting regularly every month for over a year now,” Werking said.

Fortville currently has two small but active food pantries, each run by a local church. Pantries at Fortville Christian Church and Fortville United Methodist Church are each open from 1-3 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Erin Flick, who volunteers at the Christian Church food pantry and is also involved in what members have been calling the Joint Food Pantry Task Force, said there is a large and growing problem with food insecurity in Vernon Township.

“Our church has had a huge growth in the number of people coming to the food pantry over the past year,” Flick said, adding that 20 or more new families have started regularly using the pantry’s services.

Flick said that having services available on Saturdays or during the evenings would make a big difference in the community, as would having a mobile food pantry available year-round.

“We need a permanent structure,” Flick said.

The ultimate goal, Werking said, is to establish a physical location for a community food pantry. Lacking an indoor space where they can store food, the group is currently unable to bring a mobile food pantry to the community during the winter months, or to accept most food donations. The group is also working on achieving 501(c)(3) charitable status so it is able to accept tax-deductible donations.

Tom Ferguson, the president of the Hancock County Food Pantry, said many people from the Fortville area travel to the Greenfield-based pantry to receive food. However, getting to the location can be a difficult expenditure of time and money.

“It’s still Hancock County, but it’s 15 miles away,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he sees the need for a permanent food pantry in Vernon Township as something that will only grow.

“The need is there, and that area is growing. In the future, there will be a lot more need,” he said.

In order to establish a food pantry, Ferguson said, Vernon Township will need a group of committed individuals; nonprofit status; a site where they can store food; and a relatively steady stream of funding. The first item is already in place, he said, and the rest can follow with hard work.

“I think they just need to remain committed and persevere,” Ferguson said.

Werking said it takes time to get a project like this off the ground, but she is optimistic about the progress the group has made so far.

“It’s a big effort,” she said.

Werking said community members wanting to help out with the efforts can check the Fortville Happenings Facebook page for future opportunities to donate and volunteer.

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