By: Jeremy Whetstone
The sun is shining on a warm fall day and cars are parked in front of a church with a beautiful stone edifice and a small green over hang that simply says “The Center.” However, this is not a typical church that contains a preacher and congregation full of pews on Sunday morning; this church is closed on Sunday, and does not have any preacher except for the 5 staff members and over 20 volunteers that spend their weekdays under its roof. This church has been transformed from a building that is in the community to a building that establishes community.
16 years ago, Joan Andrews, a women sensitive to the needs of others, felt a pulling on her heart to lend a hand to her neighbors in need. Along with the help of churches she created a non-profit organization called Family Christian Development Center. She embarked on a journey that took her from blessing 6 families that lived in a trailer park to being an integral part in a community of over 20,000 residents. Her heart and spirit to help people continues to grow like a tree near a stream even though she has passed away.
Inside the building are two staircases, one leading up to the main office area, and the other into a lower area that contains a food pantry. In the food pantry, which has the look and feel of a modern supermarket, there are many items that patrons can choose from. There is a woman at the check-out counter patiently waiting to help someone bag their food, and a man assisting a patron that had a question. FCDC volunteers strive to provide a friendly welcoming atmosphere that goes beyond supplying the necessities. Ken Woodcox, the food pantry manager said, “I try to make it light, I try to make it friendly, and I try to make it helpful so that they don’t feel ashamed to come in… They come in and know that our heart is right and it puts them at ease.”
Mr. Woodcox, a retired gentleman with a calm and confident demeanor offers not only food, but also advice and guidance that comes from 80 years of living. He retired 17 years ago and still dreams of helping people and making life better for the less fortunate. Mr. Woodcox is a humble man that takes no glory, he says, “It’s a pleasure to be down here… It’s a whole community effort… for instance; there was a farmer that donated a complete cow and John’s Butcher Shop made it into hamburger.” The community rallies behind FCDC and supports the drive to bolster its community.
There is a wide range of community members that desire to help FCDC with its purpose; Dr. Lisa from Angelmeyer Clinic volunteers her time to see around 40-50 babies every month, Martin’s Grocery Store in Nappanee donates a cart of bread almost daily in order to feed the hungry, Pizza Hut, Alco, and Dollar General also donate items for the pantry. However, these stores are not the only ones stepping up to the plate to help the less fortunate, individuals are making huge impacts on people’s lives as well.
Every Tuesday a woman from a local church brings in items that the food pantry needs. There are also 27 volunteers that are changing lives Mr. Woodcox says, “All my volunteers are faithful and they have the right idea of why they’re working here. It’s a ministry for them.” The local Wa-Nee schools commit time and money for food drives once or twice a year these drives bring in many quality items that people can use. Even the post office and fire station sacrifice their time and space for the greater good. Mr. Woodcox understands that there is more than just a need for food in the community and is also making things easier for widows that cannot afford prescription medication.
“We do rent and utility assistance also, one of the biggest projects we have is furnishing prescription medicine to people in need.” Says Woodcox optimistically. They furnish medicine free of charge for widows and others who qualify. A fixed income is difficult to live on when most of it is required to pay for things such as prescription medications, and FCDC is seeking to ease the pinch of big Pharmaceuticals by establishing a relationship that can benefit the individual in need. The food pantry also supplies clothing for adults, juniors, and babies. Mr. Woodcox has his eyes set firmly on the future and dreams of doing more for people.
“The culture of the people coming in has changed somewhat,” He says emphatically, “we are looking at counseling, we are looking at mentoring, we’re looking at not just handing out and saying ‘see you again next week.’” FCDC is choosing to put more into people than just the bare minimum, it is completing the goal of Joan Andrews who began by looking at individuals for who they really are and seeking to help them with what the really needed. FCDC is a prime example of a non-profit organization that flourishes on community awareness and seeks to build a community within.