On Wednesday, Combined Community Services in Warsaw will open its food pantry to clients in a whole new way, offering them healthier food options and giving them the opportunity to utilize it more like a grocery store.
“By allowing people to choose what they like, it gives them a sense of dignity,” said Peggi Lisenbee-Wright, director of client services for Combined Community Services. “There seems to be a conception that, when you come for help, you get what you deserve and not necessarily what you like.”
CCS Executive Director Steve Possell added, “Client Choice is a model of emergency food distribution that enables clients to select their own food, much like a grocery store. Unlike most pantries, which provide clients with fixed boxes or bags of food with no ability to the client to select the items, Client Choice pantries allow clients the ability to choose from a wide variety of foods, better enabling clients to meet their dietary needs.”
Also, Possell noted that clients who are able to choose their own foods will ultimately have less waste and a higher satisfaction in their food qualities.
Today, 16 players and two coaches from Shorter University in Rome, Ga., were helping ready the pantry for its first Client Choice day, which will be held from 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow.
Shorter University ladies basketball coach Vic Mitchell was with his team today and said their volunteer efforts are part of a mission of community service. As part of the National Christian College Athletic Association, Shorter University is in town this week for the NCCAA National Basketball Championships at Grace College. During that time, all 8 men’s teams and all 8 women’s teams are volunteering somewhere in the community.
Other places that received volunteer services were Heartline Pregnancy Center, The Salvation Army, Miller’s Merry Manor, local elementary schools and Grace Village among many others.
As the Shorter University team helped stocked shelves at the CCS Food Pantry, Lisenbee-Wright noted that among the non-perishables and even frozen foods were healthier food options. Ashlyn Vitoux of Warsaw Community High School took on that project for her Kosciusko Youth Leadership Academy project.
Vitoux, according to Lisenbee-Wright, raised about $9,000 on her own for the pantry and specifically for healthy choice options such as ground turkey and sugar free syrup, and even for the inclusion of gluten free products. It is the hope of Vitoux that CCS can continue the healthy choice options by utilizing local grants and through continued donations, but her immediate goal is to fund the program for one year.
The CCS Food Pantry serves approximately 600 families per month – that’s up more than 100 families from last year at this same time.
The pantry is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. “We are changing our Friday hours and closing earlier, at 1 p.m., but we are still open more than any other food pantry,” said Lisenbee-Wright.
CCS is also looking for volunteers to help with the pantry during operational hours. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Carrie Bruns at 574-269-6019 Ext. 230.