It can be stressful and costly to operate a food pantry.
Which is why Wendell United Methodist Church uses a less traditional form of fundraising to stock its community food pantry before the holiday season.
Wendell United Methodist Church will hold its annual Feed Your Neighbor 5K on Oct. 25, an event that will support the church’s food pantry for about four to five months.
Race Director and WUMC member Dave Rollins said the race typically brings in about $4,000 to $5,000. He doesn’t coordinate the pantry, but food pantry coordinator Debbie Merritt said it usually costs the church about $1,000 a month to keep the pantry stocked.
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From the beginning of the year to the end of September, the pantry has spent $9,587 to stock its shelves.
Most of the money from the 5K comes from registration fees and sponsorships from local businesses or individual church members.
Rollins said the race typically has about 100 runners, but there is room for up to 200 runners to participate.
The race is also a chance for runners to practice for the upcoming City of Oaks marathon in Raleigh, which will be the weekend after WUMC’s 5K race.
In addition to the race, the food pantry relies on more traditional means of keeping a healthy supply of goods.
The church also partners with the eastern North Carolina Food Bank for food and accepts individual donations.
“We’ve got community support, we’ve got support in the faith community (and) we’ve got support from our members, so it’s a lot of working together to keep it going,” Merritt said.
This year, the church got an extra boost from the Wendell Harvest Festival’s first Little Mister and Miss Wendell pageant. Contestants had to raise money for four local food banks and managed to raise a little over $10,000. Each church got about $2,500, which should carry WUMC’s pantry through its busiest months of the year.
Every month, the church serves about 100 families from Wendell and Zebulon or families who have been referred from the Eastern Regional Center Social Services department. Last November, the pantry distributed food to 146 families, the most in its nine-year history.
“November and December typically are larger, (but) that one really threw us for a loop,” Merritt said of last November’s increase.
Merritt is expecting to see a similar increase this year again.
But since it’s opened, she said it’s been difficult to make sure there is consistently enough for families.
“It can be hard keeping ahead of things sometimes,” Merritt said. “I think we’ve picked up enough for a week and sometimes you have to pick up again to get through the week.”
Registration for the Feed Your Neighbor 5K is $30 per person and $25 per team. For non-runners, the WUMC food pantry accepts individual donations.