If you drive by the corner of Lower Huntington Road and Airport Expressway on any given Thursday evening, you will see a long line of cars waiting for the doors to open at the Avalon Food Pantry. Celebrating its 27th year serving the people of Waynedale and the surrounding area, the Avalon Food Pantry is committed to making a difference in the lives of anyone needing assistance.
The food pantry will serve over 100 local families every Thursday. Doors are open from 6-8:00pm, and cars begin to line up at 5:00pm. “Everyone is welcome to come to our Food Pantry. People come for many different reasons, and our job is to love them right where they are and provide food in their time of need,” shares Avalon Food Pantry Coordinator, Amy Esslinger.
“We think Avalon Food Pantry is special because we don’t have restrictions that many other pantries do, people from any zip code are welcome to visit us every week. Some food pantries require patrons to show identification or address verification. Here, we don’t ask, we just help,” Esslinger explains.
“My family lived in the Waynedale area, and I was coming to Avalon’s food pantry with my kids every week, we were struggling financially, and food pantries were a wonderful resource,” shares Esslinger. “It can be hard to walk into an unknown place to ask for help. The people at Avalon were so kind and I could tell they really cared about people. We began attending the church, and 8 years later I was given the opportunity to take over the responsibilities of coordinator for the food pantry. Even though we are in a better place financially, my heart is with the people, and they are family now. I love serving and supporting them every Thursday with more than just food.”
It takes 10-15 volunteers each week to make the Avalon Food Pantry run smoothly. This includes a morning crew to load and sort food and an evening crew to serve. Most of the volunteers that support the food bank come from Avalon Church, but others in the community faithfully serve as well; all with their own stories. Several volunteers were once patrons themselves and feel this is a way of giving back to an organization that once loved on them. Owen Helman began serving to fulfill Boy Scout service hours and enjoyed it so much he brought his mom to serve with him and, a year later, they continue to volunteer.
“We love serving the people of Waynedale and Fort Wayne, and we encourage everyone to get involved,” shares Pastor K. Paul Maurer of Avalon Church. “We collect food each week at church to help supplement the food coming from our partnership with Community Harvest Food Bank.” Anyone looking to support the food bank can contribute items to the food pantry at 1500 Lower Huntington Road during the work week or bring items to the church service on Sunday mornings at 9:00 or 10:30AM.
The Avalon Food Pantry is unique in that it offers more than pantry items. “Visitors receive not only dry goods, but dairy, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, and household items as well. People often forget that diapers and cleaning supplies can be a costly expense, and we want to help in as many ways as possible,” shares Esslinger.
“The people of Waynedale are what make this a great community, and if we can be just a little part of supporting them, we will be better for it,” expresses Pastor Maurer. “We live in a time of life that is uncertain, and we want to be something people can count on. At Avalon, we like to say, ‘you matter here,’ and we hope that it shows in the way we serve each other.”