RACINE — Calling Racine’s central city a “food desert” has become practically cliché, but one nonprofit has a fresh idea to hit the problem head-on.
Giving to the Nations incorporated as a nonprofit in 2015 and took the ensuing time to “wait for The Lord’s direction” on what its first outreach mission would be, according to Pastor Lynn Nys, a board member. That direction ended up being a food pantry and outreach center at the former J&W Drive In, 1701 12th St.
That location is deliberate, Nys said, and will help Giving to the Nations target the city’s food desert problem.
“We chose the property because of its location,” she said. “Downtown Racine is a food desert. It doesn’t have healthy choices for the people to make.”
Nys added that the location is just a block away from public transportation. That’s just one component of the positive experience Nys’ organization is trying to create at the pantry and outreach center, which she calls “A Place of Provision.”
“It’s going to be a good experience instead of one that can possibly be degrading,” she said. “It’s tough for some people to admit they need a little help right now.”
A center for community
The help will come in many forms, as volunteers will be greeters and personal shoppers for visitors to the pantry, which will be set up like a grocery store, Nys said. The location also will house events such as school supply drives and possibly could be a Bookmobile stop.
“We’re not looking at it as just a food pantry, we’re looking at it as a place for provision,” Nys said. “We desire to help people. We desire to have people come that have that heart to give.”
The “place” also will look to add services suggested by the community, in addition to offerings like nutrition classes put on by UW-Extension and free eye exams.
“As people come in, we’re going to ask them what they would like to see,” Nys said. “What do you see as the needs in this community?”
Nys said she hopes the pantry will open in late September, initially opening from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays. In the meantime, she said that any sort of volunteer labor to help prepare the property would be appreciated.
“We’re calling for contractors or volunteers to help fix up the property,” she said. “We cannot open the doors until our parking lot is done.”
While many of the people working for Giving to the Nations belong to Stand On His Word International Apostolic Ministries, Nys insists that the food pantry is non-denominational. Still, its mission falls in line with the Christian value of helping those in need.
“If you need help, it’s OK,” Nys said. “At some point, we all need some help. It just looks different for all of us.”