- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) - A young girl holds her mother’s hand as they walk through the Nampa Nazarene Care House shopping for groceries. She’s excited because her mother is letting her take home pink cupcakes she found on one of the shelves.

“This food bank is awesome,” Courtney Wood, the girl’s mother, said. “I’ve actually never been to this one before. This one is a lot bigger and has a lot to offer. We get fresh local vegetables, bread, milk and cereal.”

Wood lost her job at a local day care on Labor Day. Since she’s been between jobs, Wood found herself needing help to feed her daughters. So she went to the Nazarene Care House located on 16th Street.

Wood is just one of over 250 residents who come to the care house in a week looking for groceries.

Neal Moore, director of the care house, said many people from all walks of life come looking for help every day. What makes the care house special and unique is how Moore and his volunteers run the business.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” he said.

The care house was recently renovated to be a larger space for residents coming for food. When a person walks through the front door, they are greeted with a smile and are given a number. When their number is called, they are presented with a couple cardboard boxes and a large cart. Then the volunteers lead them to the back, where refrigerators and shelves of donated food are located. Each person has a chance to shop for bread, milk, eggs, cheese, fresh fruit, local vegetables and some boxed dinners.

“We are a choice pantry,” Moore said. “People can go through and not receive a bunch of food they and their families won’t use.”

The care house is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons. On an average, Moore sees 10 new faces at the care house each day. Volunteers ask patrons to limit their visits to once a month, but Moore said no one is turned away if they come more often.

“If someone comes in and says they’re hungry, they are going to leave with food,” Moore said. “I don’t care if they come twice in one month. That’s not how we roll, because our job is to love them.”

In more traditional food banks, volunteers fill cardboard boxes with a variety of products. Before the renovation volunteers at the care house would fill boxes in an orderly fashion. Every box contained the same amount of food, such as two cans of vegetables, two box dinners, a loaf of bread, some dairy items and fruit. Moore said letting the people who need food shop for themselves helps families make better choices for their specific needs while feeling more independent.

There are some limits to what people can take while they shop. Families are allowed unlimited bread, three items from the refrigerator, two box meals and three items from the freezer. The care house even holds birthday cakes for children, something Moore said families are grateful for.

“These people might not have afforded a cake for their celebration,” he said.

The renovation also includes a new kids’ room where children can play and watch movies while their parents shop. The care house is freshly painted and has welcoming decorations on the walls.

“It feels more like a home,” Moore said.

Moore also partners with other surrounding food banks.

“I represent 18 other food banks,” Moore said. “I partner with them all the time when it comes to food and many other projects. They are my friends. If I have excess of bread, I call them and see who needs what. We like to share.”

All the food at the care house is donated from the Idaho Food Bank, local gardeners and giving families. Moore said the Nampa First Church of the Nazarene also donates money for support.

Once a month the church gives away its Sunday tithing so the care house can purchase more food, equipment and upkeep. This donation generates over $12,000 a year.

More people are starting to visit the care house, Moore said. He said the flow of residents in need is a symptom of the lasting recession in Idaho.

“We serve a diverse group of people,” he said. “And there’s many reasons people come in. Government resources have been cut back, minimum wage jobs don’t provide enough or the economy makes it hard to get a job. Truly, there is a need here that I don’t think many people realize we have in Idaho.”

Another way the care house helps residents is by offering volunteer jobs to the homeless, to people in rehab and people with disabilities. The volunteers who end up serving at the care house fall in love with the families who come pick up food.

Leiann Snyder started volunteering at the care house three years ago. She felt what the care house was doing for the community was something she needed to be a part of. She comes in once a week and helps people shop for food.

“Coming here keeps me grounded and humble,” she said. “I like (that) different faiths can come together and help our community.”

Snyder said food banks like the care house leave large impacts on the community and create a sense of family for those in need.

Wood said she’s grateful the care house is so close to her home, because she’s able to provide for her children after one visit.

“Some food banks can only give you enough for two days,” she said. “The volunteers here care about you. They are here to help us.”

After hearing Wood’s story, Moore recommended a job at the nearby church she could apply for, just one example of how Moore and his volunteers look out for their community.

“Food, prayer and friendship,” he said. “We’re here for friendship and we’re here to love on people.”

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Information from: Idaho Press-Tribune, https://www.idahopress.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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