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By Amber Marra - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- When people enter My Church in Strasburg, Pastor Tony Bates wants them to feel the love.
"When they come in, they will no doubt feel the love of God in this place ... and that's a change we want to see," he said.
My Church, which is non-denominational, has begun spreading the love with the hopes of changing the lives of those in the community who need it the most by starting the aptly named Keep the Change Food Pantry.
This will be Strasburg's second food pantry, with Compassion Cupboard Inc. being the first.
Bates started the church two years ago with just 15 members, and operated out of the Strasburg Theater. A short time later the congregation was able to move to its current location at 105 Stony Pointe Way, Suite 211, and now has as many as 80 people on some Sundays.
The name of the pantry plays into two parts of the church. The first, as Bates explains, is that anyone who walks in should feel comfortable and welcome to not only fulfillment in terms of the food offered, but also on a spiritual level, should they choose to do so. The second reason involves the memory of Bates' late brother-in-law, Jimmy Skeeter Stephens, who's rough demeanor as a Harley-Davidson rider did not reflect his giving personality, which always brought out his number one catch phrase: "Keep the change."
"He looked as rough as he could be, but he had one of the biggest smiles and biggest hearts," Bates said.
After preparing all summer, the pantry is now ready for business with donations from the church and Hepner Tire & Auto, of Woodstock, set to be distributed. For now, the pantry is for non-perishable food items only, but by the new year Bates hopes to be approved by the state to carry meat and other perishables.
In the meantime, the volunteers at the church continue to stuff the pantry with food and provide an inviting atmosphere. No personal or occupational information is required by the pantry, just a name and, if they choose to provide the information, which church they attend.
"We want them to come in with dignity and leave with dignity," said Donna Orndorff, pantry organizer.
Keep the Change Food Pantry will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday. For more information about My Church or the pantry, go to mychurch-va.com.