Free food for those in need in their community. Joseph’s Pantry supplies local resources to serve their community and families. Winn-Dixie has supported this organization through the Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Program.
Tell us about Joseph’s Pantry.
Joseph’s Pantry’s mission is to provide healthy food for all people. Whether you’re a senior, a single parent, a two-parent income household or homeless, we provide to anyone experiencing food insecurities in a healthy, safe, loving environment.
I know the names of about 95% of the people that come to Joseph’s Pantry. They are like family. Our food pantry experience has dignity to it. People don’t come into our Pantry and just get handed the same things; you can choose your food. We offer different breads and bakery goods, all kinds of things like that, so people have options. It gives them self-esteem to know they can also shop instead of us just handing them a bunch of vegetables they might not use.
Our pantry wants to have people feel safe and loved and know that sometimes it is okay to need a little help. We constantly take people by the hand and let them know it is okay. We are here to help with whatever they may need. Especially with kiddos, I pass out popsicles, candy and sometimes toys—just little things to bring a smile to their faces and make them feel at home.
Joseph’s Pantry has been doing this for about three years. We started in 2020 with 30 people a week and now serve about a thousand people.
What services do you provide to the community?
Our Pantry provides fresh foods, toiletries, toothpaste, paper towels, kitchen gadgets and whatever we can get our hands on that people need. Feeding Northeast Florida provides us with the bulk of the food. Then every week, we do a pick-up at Target, where we get many of our household and baby product donations. We have a great partnership with the local Target and have been able to give away at least 30 baby carriages. We’ve also given away tons of diapers, cribs, rockers, high chairs and, of course, toys. Waste Not Want Not is another big sponsor of ours. They provide us with beautiful loaves of bread, cakes, cookies and pastries. Many people use these goods for their children’s birthday parties.
So, we do step outside of just providing food. We are always happy to ask, “What else can we help you with?” One lady told me she didn’t have a car seat for her child. I let her know the next one was hers. When I got it and gave it to her, she was thrilled.
We are always happy to ask, “What else can we help you with?”
We also provide parents with formula. When the country experienced a significant formula shortage in 2022, we provided so much to families, and we still do. Everything is always sealed, labeled and in its original package.
We had a lady who adopted a baby born exposed to drugs. She came to our food bank because her husband had been in the military; now that he isn’t, he can’t find a job. We got a stroller donated by Target and gave it to her. It looked like the Cadillac of strollers, so I looked it up online, and it was over $400. The baby she adopted now has this beautiful stroller. They were so thrilled, and I thought how cool it was that we could provide such a fantastic stroller to these people.
Once in a while, Chick-fil-A donates about 50 to 70 free sandwiches to us. And the first visitors to the Pantry get a sandwich. We have donated toy drives at Christmas time. This year we’re going to have a blanket drive. We do Christmas gifts and Thanksgiving turkeys.
We’re trying to get a new graduate from barber school to come out and do free haircuts. I like creativity and thinking out of the box by throwing a splash of something new into the mix, so people say, wow, this is great. We reach out to the community for help, and we invite the community to come and be part of it.
What sets Joseph’s Pantry apart from other nonprofits?
Our Pantry is personable; if somebody’s hurting or crying and needs help, we hold their hand, literally hug them and give them what they need.
One day a lady approached me to say, “I just found out my oldest child died, and he was sitting in an apartment for a long time before they found him.” I hugged her and told her that if there was anything we could do, we were there to help. The following week I saw her in line. I walked over to her and said, “I’ve been praying for you and your son.” And I assured her he was in a good place and everything would be okay. Little personal things go a long way because even though they need food, they also need those human connections.
People will also come up to me and share all the good things happening in their lives. We will make exciting announcements for people. If it’s someone’s birthday, we’ll sing Happy Birthday. We incorporate lovely little personal touches that show our community we care.
What I love about our Pantry is the love, connections and dignity we create for people. These are people hurting, lonely and embarrassed. We strive to let them know this is okay and they will get through this difficult time. I love seeing kiddos excited to say hi to me because they know I will hand them chocolate. It’s a thrill to me. Connecting with people during hard times and making them feel at home is so rewarding.
What I love about our Pantry is the love, connections and dignity we create for people.
Please tell us a story that illustrates your organization’s good work.
My director and I work together at the Pantry. We were standing there one day, and a child came in and started jumping up and down because they saw an apple. She took the apple and said, “Mommy, can I please have this apple? Can I have this apple?” Her mother, of course, said yes. I remember thinking my kids used to throw whatever they wanted into my shopping cart, and for this kid to get so overjoyed over a simple apple was humbling. Her happiness because of an apple overwhelmed us, and we started crying. The things taken for granted that bring others so much happiness and nourishment sometimes take you by surprise.
I’ve been in grocery lines before and paid for people’s food ahead of me because they’ll get bread and some deli meat, and then they don’t have enough money, so they want to put back the milk. I won’t let that happen; just that little help brings people joy. In turn, they will often want to help at the Pantry. This is the humbleness of it. I have people contacting me that come to the Pantry, asking, “What can I do for you?”
A pivotal moment for us was when that little girl could get an apple that most people would take for granted. Most kids would ask for a bag of chips or Hostess Twinkies or candy. She was excited that we had an apple for her. It was a beautiful moment that solidified that we’re doing the right thing.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
Making people feel human is so important to us, as is making people feel accepted, unashamed and that they count. We want our community to know this is temporary; it’s not permanent. When people come in, they don’t feel good about themselves, which we strive to change after their first visit. We do not judge or discriminate. Everyone is welcome. Even if you’re a little cranky when you come in, we’ll get you laughing by the time you leave.
Making people feel human is so important to us, as is making people feel accepted, unashamed and that they count.
What do you want people to know about Joseph’s Pantry?
We’re genuine and authentic, and a hundred percent of every donation goes directly to the Pantry. No one gets paid. We are all volunteers; everything that comes in goes back to the Pantry and the community we serve.
How will you use the funds raised from the Winn-Dixie Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Program?
We’re very grateful to Winn-Dixie for partnering with us in the Bloomin’ 4 Good Program. I tell supporters, “Go get those flowers because everything counts when you’re talking about people.”
The money all goes to keeping the Pantry running. For example, We might have to buy another rack to store food on. We have commercial freezers and refrigerators that need maintenance. We purchase insulated bags for people to keep in their cars so that they can keep things fresh. We are also trying to save money to get a van for pick-ups. We purchase all the tables in the Pantry, and occasionally we will buy somebody something if they need it. Everything comes out of the pantry budget. A little goes a long way for us; we’re very savvy about money.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Joseph’s Pantry is very authentic and wants to help people. I was shocked at the number of families going around with food insecurities and the number of people that pull up and live in their cars. We want to find a better way to help others who need to live like that. We can get there and make a difference if we all do our part. We’ve helped people get jobs. I’ve given people jobs to do around the property. We say whatever the need is; if we can fulfill it, we will do it.
Everyone is welcome to come and share in the experience. For any agency or organization that comes to me saying we want to donate blankets, shoes or baby items, I say, “Please come and join in passing things out.” We love having people come and be a part of the process.
We’re open the last Wednesday of every month from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm. However, we don’t close the line at one. People keep coming through, so we usually leave at about 3:00 pm. We welcome volunteers and donations. I have people that drop off goods at my front door. All are welcome!
Tamara Delahanty is the Pastor at Joseph’s Pantry.
Published July 24, 2023.