Church donates nearly 18 tons of food to Love Chapel

The largest-ever single-source donation by far to the local Love Chapel food pantry came from a storehouse 1,500 miles away in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday. But donors from Columbus’ Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it actually came from the heart because of Jesus’ Biblical command to feed the hungry.

The church is a regular, year-round supporter to Bartholomew County’s largest pantry both in food and financial donations. This donation is especially important because the summer months generally mark the food pantry’s period of fewest or least donations, though pantry leaders always have gushed about the community’s support.

A total of nearly 36,000 pounds, or 18 tons — enough food to feed local families for about two weeks — from the church’s Humanitarian Aid Center gave Love Chapel Executive Director Kelly Daugherty a million reasons to smile. The delivery included beans, peanut butter, cereal, rice, and much more.

At one point, a forklift driver steered through the pantry parking lot on Center Street in Columbus with a huge load of boxed sugar. But Daugherty saw a different sweetness.

“This is an amazing outpouring of generosity,” Daugherty said as volunteers unloaded the 52-foot semi-truck.

The largest ever multiple-source food donation is from a few years ago and an event called CANstruction, in which teams from various organizations and companies build structures with canned goods, and then donate those nonperishables after the build to local food pantries. That was more than 41,000 pounds.

But Daugherty and his staff were overwhelmed and in a nearly festive mood Wednesday as volunteers unloaded the truck for more than an hour, and church youth distributed freezer and ice cream treats to those assembled. California truck driver Rangit Sandhu left Salt Lake City Monday morning and beamed as people thanked him for his part in the delivery from the church’s Humanitarian Center.

The donation was so large that resident Larry West donated storage space down the street from the pantry. Dorel Juvenile Group Inc. brought a forklift and helped unload the food from the truck, which saved “a tremendous amount of physical lifting and manpower,” Daugherty said.

Bishop Jack Bartnett from Columbus’ First Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the whole effort is meant to echo the kindness of Jesus.

“We try to follow the (compassionate) example that Jesus Christ set for us,” Bartnett said. “ … Jesus went about doing good and we strive to do the same.”

He cited Scripture from Matthew 25:35 in which Jesus referenced feeding others as being akin to feeding him. Besides the pandemic period, the worldwide church has helped feed the struggling at key, tough times throughout history, including the Great Depression.

Daugherty explained that Bartnett recommended Love Chapel’s cause to the church’s Salt Lake City headquarters. Leaders then sent a regional manager to examine the pantry’s work. They were impressed with the number of people fed and approved the donation.

“We’re appreciative of the support we get from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but then also from the community,” Daugherty said. “They’ve been fabulous throughout this whole pandemic in supporting us, and it’s been really appreciated.”

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The Ecumenical Assembly of Bartholomew County Churches, also known as Love Chapel, defines itself as “a Christ-centered, faith-based outreach ministry.” Those involved help support emergency needs in the community.

More information about Love Chapel — including how to donate money, food or volunteer efforts — is available at lovechapel-bartholomew.org.

Volunteers are greatly appreciated, said Daugherty.

He also mentioned that dry goods (such as pasta, peanut butter, cereal, etc) are always needed and have a long shelf life. Milk would also be a good item to donate.

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The food pantry is located at 292 Center St. in Columbus and is open from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Saturday.

Daugherty said that the only requirement is that those served must be a Bartholomew County resident and bring proof, such as a piece of mail received in the last 30 days. Those without proof of residency will be served the first time but must bring proof upon their second visit.

Visitors are asked to wear masks when they come into the building for registration and will fill out a list of food items they do and do not like. Then the food will be delivered out to their cars.

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For more photos from the food donation at Love Chapel, visit therepublic.com.

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