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Monday, January 7, 2008

Common Cupboard - " A Pooled Resource"

There are three foundational principles that were adopted when my wife Deb and I and our two friends Barbara Chandler and Harry Walden started Common Cupboard. During the next month or so I hope to share them with you and expand on them. They are serving people in such a way as to "demonstrate God's love", the "cupboard's "invisibility" to those we serve, and being a "pooled resource" or - to coin a phrase - a "common cupboard".

For those of you who are not familiar with Common Cupboard, it is a food pantry with a twist. The cupboard is a place from which followers of Jesus and local congregations draw to reach out to someone with a need. Typically we provide about a week's worth of groceries to be given away free, without cost, and with "no strings attached" as a way to demonstrate God's love. The groceries are typically picked up and delivered to people's homes. Some people receive groceries for one or two months due to a crisis situation, others may have an ongoing need.

Common Cupboard came about because we occasionally came into contact with people who could use a little help. For whatever reason – possibly a family crisis, unemployment, or illness – they had difficulty meeting their needs. Often they were single parents or people who due to illness or a fixed income just needed a little help. You know people like that too. We helped out the best we could by grabbing an extra bag of groceries at the store, or going to our own pantries or cupboards and giving what we could to help.

After a while it dawned on us that if we "pooled our resources" of money and groceries, along with donations from community businesses and organizations, that we could create a "common cupboard". In so doing we could help out a lot more folks while equipping others to reach out as well. We figured that individually we might spend $100 to help a family with some groceries. However, if we could create this "pooled resource", this "common cupboard" by having partnerships with food banks, community organizations, local businesses, churches and common hearted individuals then the same $100 could help 6 or 7 or more families.

Being a "pooled resource" is a key principle of the cupboard. When we all give in some way it is amazing what can be done. There are many ways to do this . One way is by organizing a food drive in your church, school, or neighborhood and bring the non-perishable foods to the cupboard . Another way is to give time to work at the cupboard. And of course, there is pooling our money together by donating financially. Actually pooling our money is the key way we finance the cupboard. Currently these finances provide about a week's groceries to 80 - 90 families. If we include our grocery outreaches we often touch over400 individuals a month.

We stock the cupboard through several means in addition to our local food drives. We have partnerships with Food Lion & Panera Bread in Indian Trail that donate food directly to the cupboard. We also obtain items from Second Harvest for a small maintenance fee per pound. And we are always looking for other means to get free or low cost food with which to stock the cupboard. Our costs to obtain food is relatively small, but we also have to maintain a facility complete with shelves, refrigerators and freezers enough to store the nearly one and a half ton of food we currently receive and distribute in an average week.

We are non-profit, and since we have no paid staff we have only the operating expenses and food costs. So we are able to serve all these people monthly for about $16 or $17 per family. And the "magic" of it is that as we serve more, it will take less and less per family to provide the roughly week's worth of groceries we give.

Currently there are faithful followers of Jesus serving through the cupboard from about 15 congregations. We are not supported by a denomination or corporate grants. We receive the vast majority of our funding from people like you and me. Although there are a few common hearted people who give on occasion, 90% of our funding comes from a small number of regular givers and one local congregation.

For me there is an additional value of pooling our resources. It lies in the power of giving away groceries that I helped purchase. Because this is true I can say "I am giving this food to you freely, because God loves you!" Or, "Let me and my church help you with that need!" I'll share more about this in later posts but this ties the first two principles - "demonstrating God's love" and the cupboard's "invisibility" - together with being a "pooled resource" creating a powerful impact on the people we serve.

I strongly believe in these 3 foundational principles - "demonstrating God's love", the "cupboard's invisibility", and being a "pooled resource". They each play a key part in the cupboard fulfilling the larger mission of "Equipping Saints to Serve". This is what the cupboard and Common Heart is all about. I will share more about these principles as I continue this series.

Common Cupboard is supported by your tax deductible donations. If you want to contribute, there are three ways to donate. You can drop your gift in the donation box at the cupboard, mail a check to Common Heart / Common Cupboard, 507 Galesburg Dr., Monroe, NC 28110, or donate online through Pay Pal by clicking the donate button on the side bar of this site.

1 comment:

Art & Robin said...

Hi Keith,
What a wonderful website you put together! Certainly an amazing ministry! I haven't been able to read all of the info but will continue to work my way through it.

May God bless you richly,