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Community is the key word at Iva Community Food Pantry

For more than 20 years, Iva Community Food Pantry has brought together every aspect of civic life from church and local government to private business, individual citizens and a hometown helping of volunteerism.

Betty Richey first learned of the food pantry when she delivered bread there for a previous employer. One of the volunteers shared with her a story about a young boy who frequented the pantry.

“The boy told her, ‘Miss Tina, if you can just make sure I get a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter each time, I know I won’t go hungry,’” Richey recalled. “When she told me that, it tugged hard on my heart.”

Richey began volunteering at the pantry, thinking she would be handling paperwork. “Now, I’m the director and this is part of my life.”

A ministry of First Baptist Church of Iva, Iva Community Food Pantry typically serves 85 to 110 families with food giveaways twice a month. When the coronavirus pandemic struck early last year, that number increased to more than 120 families representing about 700 individuals, Richey said.

Food is given away two Tuesdays each month at First Baptist on Highway 81 not far from downtown, while volunteers store and pack non-perishable and perishable food donations in warehouse space owned by the Town of Iva and located across the street from Iva Town Hall. Donations come from Second Harvest Food Bank, area companies such as Aldi and individual donors. A Bible study group at First Baptist donates money each month to purchase toilet paper, laundry detergent, dish soap and other non-food products, Richey said.

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For a small community like Iva, not having a local food pantry would be a hardship, says Iva Town Clerk and Treasurer Tim Taylor.

“Some who receive food ride their bicycles or pull a cart, so they couldn’t get to Anderson,” said Taylor, who along with Richey, is a member of First Baptist Church of Iva. “Others are elderly and may not be able to drive a long distance. The pantry being right here in the community is very important.”

Richey and Taylor say the Iva Community Food Pantry as a great example of local people helping their local community.

“What’s rewarding is that every day I can look out my window and see the volunteers over here doing something – bringing food in or packing the boxes to go out,” Taylor said. “We’re just really proud of the volunteers. It showcases the heart of the people from this community and I think it really shows this county what the people of Iva are made of. They’re investing a lot of their time into this very needed ministry.”

For Richey, the reward is having the opportunity to touch someone’s life.

She recalls the story of a woman who came to the pantry – and not knowing it was the woman’s birthday – Richey gave her a cake.

“Two weeks later she came back said, ‘You changed my life. It was my birthday that day and I was going to go home and do something I shouldn’t do.’ She told me that she was not a firm believer in God, but she knew God was speaking to me that day.”

Want to help or do you need help?

Contact First Baptist Church of Iva (864) 348-6511 or Betty Richey at (864) 348-3662.

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