Conway First UMC food pantry receives more than $10,000 from a community event

written by Colleen Holt, communications assistant, Conway First United Methodist Church

Pantry volunteers are shocked and in disbelief as Tricia O’Connor shows them the donation total.

A total of $10,101.80 was recently donated to the Conway First United Methodist Church Food Pantry through proceeds from an Oktoberfest event sponsored by The Kitchen Store & More, a downtown business with a rich history of supporting non-profit organizations across the community.

Tricia O’Connor, an owner of the business, presented the check to food pantry volunteers and pastors on Oct. 19 during the pantry distribution. Oktoberfest activities were held Oct. 9 through 14. All proceeds from ticket sales were donated to the food pantry, along with a portion of sales at the store on Oct. 12, and a corn hole tournament on Oct. 14.

Kisha Bumpers, director of the feeding ministries at Conway First UMC, and layperson Sarah Frost, one of the pantry’s loyal volunteers, headed up the Oktoberfest ticket sales and publicity at the church. Sarah said she was in “total disbelief” at hearing the grand total of the donation. Looks of shock and even some teary eyes could be seen on the faces of those gathered for the check passing.

Mrs. O’Connor said an invitation from a friend was all that was needed to start the path that eventually led to the donation being made. John Phillips, a young food pantry helper, invited her son, Ben, to begin volunteering at the pantry. Ben soon joined his friend — and several other youths — as a valued member of the team. This invitation sparked the idea of the Oktoberfest proceeds benefiting this outreach program. In addition, the corporate sponsor for Oktoberfest was Zwilling, which is a cooking-related company, so it was just natural that a food-related group would receive the event proceeds.

“When Tricia and The Kitchen Store staff asked to meet with Kisha and me last March we had no idea what the meeting was about. We came away thrilled that they had chosen our food pantry to receive their Oktoberfest Fundraiser,” Sarah said. “Our whole church supported this effort, all the way from selling tickets to buying tickets and making donations plus attending the Thursday evening event downtown at The Kitchen Store. Our pastors, church staff and so many church members were there during the event, with more than 30 volunteers working the food, drink, and ticket tables. Now that’s a ‘feel good’ event for sure!

When it comes to how the funds can be used, Kisha said there are some specific uses in mind. “The outcome was so much more than we imagined. We will utilize some of the funds this week as we have partnered with a Hendrix College student, Betsy Van Meter, to help inform our pantry guests about eating healthy. We will be purchasing all of the groceries needed to make one of the healthy meals that Betsy has provided in her nutrition packet,” she said. “These extra funds will also help us with the Christmas meal bags that we will give our pantry guests in December. We are so appreciative to The Kitchen Store & More for giving us the opportunity to provide additional resources to our community.”

The Conway First UMC Food Pantry is open from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. each Thursday. All that is needed to receive food is a valid identification card. The pantry continues to be a drive-through operation, with the exception of the fourth Thursday when pantry guests are invited to come into the building to choose their own food. On the second and fourth Thursdays, a meal is served to those visiting the pantry through the Amazing Grace Cafe.

“As I drive home each Thursday evening after working the Food Pantry, I smile thinking about our youth who come after school and college classes to volunteer and interact with our clients,” said Sarah. “My heart becomes so full thinking about what we are doing for so many in our community in need. It’s that joy of giving in an atmosphere where certainly #LoveGrowsHere.”

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