By Kim Walter
FRONT ROYAL -- Brenda Thompson found herself filling out paper work for the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry a couple of years ago, after her husband was injured in an accident and out of work for two years.
"Things changed," she said. "We didn't have much ... I didn't know where our next meal would come from."
Thompson, of Front Royal, heard about the pantry and learned that no matter what, she wouldn't be turned away.
Upon visiting, she enjoyed walking around the small space, picking different kinds of meat, vegetables and other snacks to take home. She became a regular patron, going once a week.
Recently, things have been better for Thompson and her family. However, she still spends a majority of her time at the pantry that helped her in a time of need.
"The Lord said, 'You have to do something to give back,' so that's what I'm doing," she said Wednesday night. "I'm here first thing in the morning unloading trucks, and I'm stocking the shelves, and I stay until every single person and child gets what they need."
Since she first started going to the food pantry, Thompson has noticed a sharp increase in the number of people who visit. She said she is amazed each week by the number of people lining up hours in advance of the doors opening.
However, she's not surprised that people keep coming back.
"Of course, it's sad to see so many people who need this place," she said. "But they come back because we love them, we support them, and we understand how hard it is to ask for help."
Thompson has come to know many of the patrons over the years.
"I don't think people in town or other places realize how many people rely on a place like this," she said. "I mean, 200 people are here a week, from all over. Somehow we manage, but we need more support from the community."
Thompson now shares the director's dream of expanding the pantry to a larger space, and possibly offering 24-hour shelter services.
"The pantry is so important to me ... " Thompson said, tearing up. "I'm sorry. I get emotional when I talk about it because there is nothing better than the good things happening here every day."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org