As the economy continues to leave many families struggling to meet their needs, Harrisonville’s Ministerial Alliance hasn’t lost sight of helping give people not just a hand out, but also a hand up.
Two ministries that have spurred from the organization in its 27-year history are the Harrisonville Thrift Store and the Shepherd’s Staff Food Pantry.
Supported by local churches and community members, the two ministries work together to offer weekly food distribution, low cost clothing and house items, as well as utility assistance to Harrisonville citizens.
“The alliance, when it started, was put in place to meet the needs of our community and to provide support for clergy in the area,” said Adam Harmon, president of the Alliance and pastor at First Christian Church in Harrisonville. “By getting together as clergy, we supported one another, but we also then began ministry, such as the thrift store and the food pantry, that then met the needs of the community.”
During the holidays, the food pantry provides groceries to as many as 400 families each week.
The pantry, which is located in the former Crossroads Assembly church building, 1311 Sanders St., Harrisonville, receives the majority of their food donations from Harvesters, Walmart and local churches.
Ministerial Alliance church members serve as volunteers stocking the pantry each Friday in preparation for distribution in the afternoon.
When Harmon first joined the alliance in 2006, the food pantry did not have a permanent home.
“When I came in 2006, the food pantry was in the Nazarene church,” Harmon said. “Every week, volunteers would tear down and set up every week, and they would serve families.”
Back then, the pantry served about 50 families each week.
The following year, the alliance took out a loan to purchase the Crossroads building.
“One thing I don’t think we realize is that if you take the average family as being two to four people, you’re looking at somewhere between 1,300 to 1,500 people who are being served each week by our food pantry,” said Harmon, who assumed his post as president Jan. 1.
Harmon said purchasing the building was a financial undertaking for the alliance, but has been a blessing to Cass County residents. In recent years, the food pantry has also been able to add a walk-in refrigerator and freezer to help meet more specific needs.
“Knowing what you’re doing for the people – that’s the best part of it,” said Delbert Beebe, who serves as food pantry director.
The alliance is paying off the loan through donations from ministerial alliance churches and revenue generated from another alliance ministry, the Harrisonville Thrift Store, 1405 South Commercial St.
Former First Baptist Church pastor David Noble serves as the director of the thrift store.
Noble said the greatest benefit of the thrift store to the community is the availability of low cost clothing.
The store also provides free clothing as needed to Hope Haven, families who experience a house fire, and other special needs.
Through revenue from the store and a United Way grant, the alliance is able to provide $1,700 in utility and food assistance to residents within the limits of the Harrisonville School District.
“We’re hoping in the coming year to create some community interest in helping us pay off the food pantry building,” Noble said. “If we did that, we would have more funds for food and benevolence. We are hoping, from the community, and our churches, to greatly increase the number of people participating in that program. We could double or triple that $1,700 rather easily.”
Noble said only 60 households are participating in the Helping Hands utility assistance program, which was created by Harrisonville Mayor Kevin Wood. The program enables city utility customers make a donation to the program through their monthly bill.
“We’re very fortunate as a community to have an alliance of pastors that can come together, with their differing opinions, and do some quality ministry within the community of Harrisonville,” Harmon said. “We do what we can. Often, we’re not able to meet all the needs in this community, but if we were not to have the thrift store and the food pantry, there would be a lot of people that would be hungry and have substantial problems, so in that respect, I can’t say enough about the alliance.”