Volunteers formerly with the nonprofit organization known as Community Food Pantry are beginning the new year at a new location down the street. The name change to “Bountiful Blessings” indeed reflects the many blessings that have come their way, despite the pandemic.
The new location is 602 N. Main St. in Pleasanton, not far from their old location at First United Methodist Church in Pleasanton. Each Monday and Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon, volunteers distribute food items for clients, who can come twice a month.
“I really wanted to say that nothing happens at the pantry without a team of volunteers that have been working super hard during the last year to serve our clients,” said Beth Gossett, who leads Bountiful Blessings.
She wants the volunteers to know how much they are appreciated. They welcome those interested in assisting, as they can always use more volunteers.
With COVID-19 precautions still in place, distribution is currently being done curbside. The way it works is, those receiving items drive up on the side of the building (Adams Street), where a volunteer takes down their information such as name, size of household and ages. Then clients simply drive over to the front where volunteers fill their order.
On Monday, Gossett gave a tour of the new facility. The packing room stores items like canned meat, vegetables, fruit and pasta. They also have two refrigerators for cold storage and freezers. There is also an area for egg packing, where eggs are removed from their flats and placed in appropriate containers.
Another room is used to store boxes. As Gossett explained, “Later on when we move inside, we’re going to be able to shop through this room. This is where we’re going to have all our odds and ends. We get a lot of variety boxes from the food bank.”
Volunteers will lay out the items and clients will be able to pick five of those.
In another area, there are food items they give out as extras from the menu. This includes chili, beef stew, chicken, hash, juices and more. There is also a cereal wall and place for rice and beans.
Each family receives two bags with 15 items and then chooses between the other items.
On this particular day, clients had a choice between butter or eggs. Sometimes Bountiful Blessings has ham, venison or chicken, but currently they are down to hamburger.
Gossett shared her excitement of their new location, which was formerly Pleasanton Elementary School.
“We got to move down here. We were working with the school and we were looking at the building across the street. We had almost settled for that, because the logistics were great and where it was was great,” said Gossett.
While the size of the other building was also a bonus, the layout was awkward. Gossett and the team didn’t want to have to knock down walls or add doors. Also, that particular location didn’t allow for wheelchair access.
Gossett recalled someone telling her that the answer was right under their nose. They told her, “God will provide when it’s time.”
They walked out of the other building with Beth thinking they will just have to keep looking.
“I looked up and I saw this building and I thought, ‘Wait a minute.’ It was that fast. So we have just really been blessed by God’s provision.”
When she saw the building, she immediately texted Pleasanton ISD Superintendent Dr. Mann, who replied quickly and sent someone over to show them the following day.
“They have just been working so well with us. They’ve been so kind and generous so we are working with them on this building,” Gossett said. “We’ve really enjoyed the move and it’s just been great. We can really serve more.”
She also shared that they have been fortunate not to run out of food for long. For example, when they are low on beans someone will show up and ask if they can use some beans.
One bonus about this time of year is that fruit trees are in harvest. Bountiful Blessings especially needs fresh produce. Someone recently showed up with a huge bin of grapefruit in her truck, which volunteers unloaded. Others have brought oranges and lemons which are now in season.
“We’ve really been lucky to have people respond to us.”
Each week on the Community Food Pantry Facebook page, the food items in need are posted. In late December, they posted a request for green beans and corn, which someone donated recently.
“There are a lot of dropoffs, which we really need. Sometimes you can’t get everything. We order from the food bank once or twice a month and sometimes they don’t have it either,” said Gossett.
Most volunteers have received the COVID-19 vaccine or are in the process of getting it. Some are too young and plan to get it the next round.
It is hoped that they will be able to move back in by the end of February. When volunteers return to serving clients inside the building, rather than from their cars outside, clients will have a shopping cart and receive their bag. They will get to do their shopping for those extra items and side items. After visiting the cold room for butter, eggs or meat they can go straight out the building.
The way the rooms are located allows for clients to not have to pass each other, without going in the hallway.
“We think we have a very seamless set up,” Gossett said.
She emphasized that the volunteers are from all over the area.
“This is not our church pantry. This is a community pantry with lots of community help and volunteers.”
Gossett said on some days they have two volunteers who help pack, both in their late 80s.
“They work hard. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, we will find you something to do.”
During the summer, they are able to use their children to pass out and grab items, in and out. Students next door at the alternative school also help sometimes with unloading.
Once a month is the Senior Commodities program for those who are preregistered. There are 180 boxes distributed to seniors, which is still done at the Methodist Church.
During the holidays, volunteers continued to distribute items. They were only closed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and on Dec. 23.
The volunteers are seeing more clients as time goes on.
“Every month we just seem to be growing a little bit,” said Gossett.
When the pantry was housed at the church, they considered 30 to be a lot. Now they have an average of 75 cars per day.
“The need and the numbers have increased since COVID for sure,” Gossett said.
On distribution days, they do cut it off at 75 since that is what they prepare and pack for. It helps keep them up with their numbers and inventory.
On heavy traffic days, clients are reminded they can go through the River Park, as the line can get long.
Anyone who wishes to donate food items can come by Monday or Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to approximately 12:30 p.m. or 1, if volunteers are there. If volunteers are not there, you may drop off items at the Methodist Church in Pleasanton and the secretary will notify the volunteers.
It is kindly asked that food items brought in are canned, in plastic or boxed. Suggestions include peanut butter, cereal, canned fruit and veggies, spaghetti sauce (not in glass jars), pancake mix, etc.
“We have been blessed bountiful,” said Gossett. “It’s a blessing to help and a blessing to see everyone helping.”