The Partnership Food Pantry
For the past several months the Bethlehem Center has housed the Partnership Food Pantry. The pantry is overseen by Karen Nichols, a life coach for the Building Stable Lives program of the Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults. Ms. Karen has an office at the Beth that allows her to serve clients within our zip code. She noticed that Alton Park lacks food resources for those in need. Transportation is difficult for residents to visit the Chattanooga Food Bank and other surrounding pantries. Even the bus line is not always convenient or available.
Ms. Karen has over 30 years of helping people, and says that “listening and asking the community what they need makes them feel supported.”
By reaching out to these residents, Ms. Karen has helped bring more hope to the community. From November to May the pantry served about 80 households: 104 adults and 80 children. This month alone over 1,200 lbs of food were distributed to the community. A story Ms. Karen loves to share is about a group of kids from our Read to Lead Academy who came to get food for their family. Their mother recently had surgery and couldn’t leave their home. It warmed Ms. Karen’s heart to provide food for this family. Another story Ms. Karen shared was about a group of senior citizens from the Emma Wheeler Homes who were only receiving $18 in food stamps. This doesn’t even cover the amount of food they need for the week. With the help of a community member, Ms. Karen is able to provide these seniors with transportation from Emma Wheeler to the Beth, allowing them to get the food they need.
The food pantry started with a $200 donation from SunTrust Bank executives. Since then, Ms. Karen has relied on the generous donations of churches, schools, and other organizations from around the city. Ms. Karen has over 30 years of helping people, and says that “listening and asking the community what they need makes them feel supported.” Coming from a similar background as our residents, overcoming obstacles, and making it a point to graduate from college, she says “giving back and helping others is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Ms. Karen also says that “ this is not just a food pantry, it’s a place for relationship building within the community.” Residents are willing to help each other by providing transportation to their neighbors and carrying food boxes for the elderly. They care about each other.
We are honored to have Ms. Karen and the Partnership Food Pantry at the Bethlehem Center. Not only does she run the Partnership Food Pantry, but she goes the extra mile to help empower our community by helping them budget, find employment, and more through her Building Stable Lives program. It’s a blessing to Ms.Karen and the Beth staff to know that we are supporting our community by providing greatly needed resources.
The Partnership Food Pantry is always grateful for your donation of meat, canned salmon, items that are low in sodium and sugar, canned vegetables, boxes, and more! For more information on what to donate call Ms. Karen at (423) 265-3114.
Shari J. Watson
Shari is a UTC graduate with a background in music and writing. She is currently the Marketing Coordinator at the Bethlehem Center. She enjoys being out in nature, laughing with friends, eating Chinese food, and traveling as much as she can.