Howell County Hunger Heroes: West Plains First Baptist Church
West Plains First Baptist Church is fully engaged in sharing hope with its community. They have a number of community outreach programs to help neighbors in need in Howell County, including a food pantry that serves about 600 people a month.
They partner with Ozarks Food Harvest to provide food to the people they serve. Julie Dotter is a chairperson for the pantry; she oversees the inventory. She says, “During COVID, we were lucky if we could get a couple of cans from the store, but with Ozarks Food Harvest we’ve always been able to stock up. It’s wonderful! The free delivery is such a blessing, too.”
Dotter and her husband got involved ten years ago and have been volunteering with the program ever since. She says most of the neighbors they serve are disabled, seniors, retirees or experiencing homelessness. “Many people tell me they don’t know what they’d do if we didn’t have this [pantry] open. You know, it helps the volunteers as well as the people who come through the front door – it’s very rewarding. We’re out to serve them, but it’s rewarding to us, too.”
According to Feeding America, Howell County has a food insecurity rate of over 17%, meaning nearly 7,000 people in their community don’t have access to enough food to live an active and healthy life. So, West Plains First Baptist Church reaches out to help individuals needing food assistance.
The moments that resonate with Dotter, she says, are when she witnesses how people feel unsure when they come through the doors of the food pantry. The volunteers go out of their way to welcome the people they serve and make them feel good about their decisions. She says you can see a change, “They feel better, and that’s what’s rewarding.”
The growing church is always looking for ways to share hope with individuals in need. In addition to the pantry and other outreach projects, they have a ministry for people experiencing homelessness in the city of West Plains. “We’re working on more ways to reach out to help more people. We’re trying to make their lives a little bit easier.”
Ozarks Food Harvest is honored to partner with West Plains First Baptist Church. They are making such an important difference in the lives of their neighbors and helping us Transform Hunger into Hope.