The Martha T. Simmons Food Pantry began about 40 years ago through the efforts of a parishioner named Martha Simmons. She was aware of food insecurity in the Marion community so she brought nonperishable items to the Parish House and stored them in a closet. Thus began the first food pantry in McDowell County. For thirty years all the food was donated by church members, and the Rector accessed items from the closet when people requested assistance. As time passed, more people became aware of this resource and the frequent visits began to be more than one person could handle.
To meet the growing demand, St. John's discovered the joy that can come from volunteering together in a lay-led outreach effort. In 2007, a committee was developed to form a plan utilizing the space on the lower level of the Parish House. Eventually a distribution system was established with computer registration of the clients. We established day of the week for Pantry operations and set hours for access (our Clergy and office staff still have access to food for emergency visitors during the week).
In 2014 Wal-Mart began to donate regularly to the food pantry. We regularly receive pantry staples, meats, dairy, bakery, frozen food, deli items, fresh vegetables and fruits. St. John’s also receives items and makes additional purchases at discount rates from Manna Food Bank. We are grateful to area farmers and farm supported businesses, like the Tomas family who own TC Farms/PG Produce and generously donate fresh produce to help feed our neighbors.
In the spring of 2014, St. John’s Community Garden (SJCG) was established to grow fresh produce for the Food Pantry. . The garden produces over 1000 pounds of food a year for our Food Pantry. It is located behind the Church Office, across the parking lot from the Food Pantry . Through our garden team's relationships with area farmers, we receive additional food throughout the summer months.
If you'd like to see what goes on behind the scenes, here is a brief video made by one of our volunteers.