Brandywine’s Wellspring Center opens barn, adds social meal to pantry hours


Wellspring Center is moving its food pantry to a new barn on the campus of Brandywine Community Church. The Wellspring pantry is adding a meal and social time to its twice-monthly pantry hours.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — More square footage for food. More capacity for making connections.

That’s what leaders of the Wellspring Center hope a new barn-themed building will hold for the future of the center’s pantry.

The center on the Brandywine Community Church campus recently added the barn, north of the church’s building at 1551 E. New Road, and invited the congregation for an open house.

“The congregation loves the space, and everyone’s excited about it,” said Gina Colclazier, executive director of the Wellspring Center.

The building offers a larger space for holding food, and Wellspring is having a “Fill the Barn” effort over the next two weeks to grow its inventory into that larger capacity.

People of the church bring items and donate money to support the pantry, and others interested in giving are welcome to drop off donations.

Angel Abner, director of the center, said items that would be particularly useful include powdered milk, salt and pepper — “some of those items that help complete a meal.” Paper towels and toilet paper are useful donations, too. Also, some food pantry guests are homeless, so pantry leaders want to be able to offer hand-held can openers and sandwich-size zip bags for storage.

Abner said the Wellspring pantry is forming a “food tree” of people who can respond and stop by the store and buy a particular item if it runs low.

Moving the food storage out of the Brandywine building and into the barn isn’t the only change at the Wellspring pantry. Wednesday, pantry hours shifted to a new format that includes a social hour. A team of table hosts welcome pantry guests to lunch and start conversations.

“We’re going to offer a meal, and then we’ll have a speaker come in and share their resources … and things they’re able to help with,” Abner said.

Colclazier said expanding the social aspect of the pantry flowed out of Wellspring’s mental health initiatives.

“What we’ve really seen is we’ve had a lot of elderly, single parents, grandparents raising grandkids” among pantry visitors, she said. Post-COVID, “We wanted to be able to combat some of that social isolation …

“There’s lots of places to get food, but we kind of wanted to focus on that community component.”

Another local pantry has found benefits of offering such a format. About two years ago, Fortville Area Resource Mission began offering “social hour” before its Tuesday pantry hours.

FARM’s pantry transitioned from a drive-thru format, used during COVID, to again letting guests come inside and choose items. FARM Executive Director Lisa Reynolds said about two years ago, some people would have been OK continuing to drive through.

But leaders began to offer a chance to come in, have something to eat and hear a speaker. The township trustee, Love INC, Hancock Regional’s Healthy 365 and others have spoken about community resources.

Other times Reynolds or another FARM leader would share their story — struggles they’d weathered, mistakes they’d made, ways they felt God was developing and growing them. Over time, she saw people open up more about their own struggles.

“There’s tons of stories of people coming to social hour and taking next steps to have a better life,” Reynolds said. “It was an almost immediate transformation.”

In American culture, “We put our best lives out there on Facebook,” she said. “ … I think it’s a relief for people to come someplace that they can be authentic and real.”

Both Colclazier and Reynolds said the hope in pantries offering social opportunities is building connections and alleviating isolation.

“Having that community helps relieve people’s stress and anxiety,” Reynolds said, noting there have been both pantry guests and volunteers who say it’s the highlight of their week. “It’s not necessarily the food — it is the people.”