NAPPANEE — One of the largely unsung benefactors in the Nappanee community is the Open Door food pantry, located in the former train depot at 292 S. Main St.
The ministry started in the basement of Nappanee United Methodist Church in 1972 and moved to its present location about 15 years ago when the city purchased the depot from CSX.
The facility and utilities are donated by the City of Nappanee. “We only pay for our insurance and telephone,” said John Personett, president of the 501c3. “Other than that, all donations and proceeds go to individual needs in the community.” City departments also help unload the trucks.
Open Door is operated entirely by volunteers. Other than food, the ministry helps with utility and rent assistance “for needy individuals and families in the Wa-Nee area.”
The food pantry gives away tons of staples. “We get most of our food from Northern Indiana Food Bank six to eight times a year,” said Personett. “Last year we got 20,000 pounds of food and this year we’re already at 13,500 pounds.”
Open Door also receives truckloads of donations from annual food drives in the community, including the U.S. Postal drive and yearly efforts by Woodview Elementary, NorthWood High School, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts and Nappanee UMC’s “Million Can March.”
The pantry also gets “at least 1,000 pounds once a month” from the Milford Food Bank.
“We average 100 families a month, which equates to about 350 to 375 persons,” Personett said.
The pantry stocks all manner of canned goods, cereal, mashed potato flakes, pasta and spaghetti sauce, rice, beans, mac and cheese and Hamburger Helper. “We have bread donated by Martin’s and pastry products donated by Rise’n Roll,” he said. “We are giving back to others in need what is given to us by the community.”
The pantry’s four freezers and two refrigerators store frozen meats such as beef roasts and whole chickens, fruits and vegetables. Personett keeps a daily temperature log. “We need to stay in compliance.”
Open Door receives donations of hams around Christmastime and gets venison from one of the local meet processors during the winter. The pantry buys the remainder of its inventory.
“We do a balancing act between what the food banks and others give us and what staples are needed,”
Individuals and families may come in twice a month to receive a box of groceries. Recipients need to bring in an official ID or driver’s license on their first visit and must provide proof of residency within the seven townships of the Wa-Nee school district.
Eligibility is determined by federal and state income guidelines for free and reduced school lunches, starting at $23,107 annual income for an individual.
“There are 350 children per month in the free and reduced Wa-Nee lunch program. More than half of the families we serve are retired. So there are many out there who qualify but are not using our services,” said Personett.
“There is no shame in coming here. We have elderly people who come on a regular basis and families who come here when the breadwinner is laid off or between jobs. Others come in on a random basis when they are in extreme need.”
The pantry is open 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. To make a donation of food or money, or for more information, call (574) 773-3820.