Since 2007, New Life Church and Ministries’ Psalm 91 Shelter House and Food Pantry has been giving food to anyone who asks for it.
Every Friday, 52 weeks out of the year, the food pantry serves an average of 500 families, many of whom have come to refer to it as “Friday Church,” New Life Church and Ministries Pastor Bill Bowman told The Times-Gazette.
The pantry also helps around 40 separate food pantries from 13 nearby counties each month.
“We have no restrictions about income or residence,” Bowman said. “All we need is your name, address, phone number, number of people in your family, and any prayer requests.”
Volunteers begin unloading and staging food around 7 a.m. every Friday. Then, at 9:30 a.m., volunteers begin singing praise and worship music.
From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., volunteers distribute food through a drive-thru system, as they have since the pantry began.
“Everybody gets the same thing. They pull up and stop, and we put stuff in their vehicles. They go to the next stop and we put more stuff in. And the next stop and the next stop and so forth,” Bowman said. “When we say we do an average of 500 families, we actually do a lot more than that. A lot of those families will share with other people because they have more than what they need. They’ll give to neighbors or family members, and then we also have the other food pantries, who also give out food.”
For the last three weeks, Bowman said the pantry began receiving a semi-truck load of 4,680 gallons of 2 percent milk from Borden’s in Cleveland as part of a USDA program each Wednesday. Bowman distributes some of the milk to organizations in Northern Kentucky and the Mount Vernon area.
“It’s more than just Hillsboro and Highland County — we’re a part of the community in Southern Ohio. And we need help. We’re a church that doesn’t have money, but we have faith, and God has always met our needs. If the story touches anybody’s heart, they’re always welcome to come and get a look at what we do,” Bowman said. “Our responsibility is to build the kingdom of God, and if we’ll build the kingdom of God, God will build New Life Ministries. When you build the kingdom, you see souls saved, bodies healed, minds delivered, lives changed, and families restored — that’s getting the kingdom established.”
Rain or shine, hot or freezing, Bowman said the pantry is dedicated to opening each Friday.
“We’ve staged food outside there when it was 28 below with the wind-chill factor, but people are hungry when it’s cold; people are hungry when it’s hot,” Bowman said. “We want to help meet their needs physically as well as spiritually. We get to pray for a lot of people and show them the love of Jesus. Jesus always preached, and then he fed them.”
The food pantry doesn’t receive any government funding, so it can better serve those whom Bowman said tend to be overlooked.
“In our area, in these 13 counties, we have a lot of grandparents who are raising grandchildren because the parents are either incarcerated, they’ve overdosed and died, or they’re in rehab programs,” Bowman said. “The grandparents’ income may be just a little bit above what they’re allowed to have in order to get food from the food pantries that get stuff from the government or Feeding America — they go by USDA guidelines. See, we don’t care about any of that. If you come, you get food.”
The food pantry relies on donations to continue helping people. Bowman told The Times-Gazette that any monetary donations go toward diesel fuel for the semi-trucks used to transport food as well as maintenance and repairs.
“They may have a truck or a trailer, they may be able to do refrigerated truck repairs that they may want to donate instead of money,” Bowman said. “We’re open to a lot of things. We just need community involvement.”
Though the pantry can’t accept home-canned goods, Bowman said they appreciate fresh, homegrown produce, store-bought canned goods, and dry goods like peanut butter and crackers. The pantry can always use adult and baby diapers as well.
“Anything that they would want to give, we would certainly take,” Bowman said.
Those who come to pick up food on Fridays can also visit Ivy’s Closet, which offers clothing, furniture, and toys at no cost. Ivy’s Closet is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
New Life Church and Ministries is located at 6101 SR 247, just south of Hillsboro.
To donate online, visit www.newlifehillsboro.org/giving.html. Psalm 91 Shelter House and Food Pantry is a federal 501(c)(3) non-profit, and donations are tax-deductible.
To volunteer, contact pantry director Hilda Hamilton at 937-205-0123, or Pastor Linda Bowman at 937-402-1429.
Find New Life Church and Ministries — and more information about its food pantry — on Facebook under “New Life Church & Ministries” or by searching “@NewLifeChurchMinistries.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.