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Walk of Faith Center Named Innovative Program of 2011
Story by Heidi Shoemaker
WOFCC Winners.jpg: Karli Kuehmichel, pantry manager, and Lisa Falkenstein, pantry director, proudly display the award the Walk of Faith Community Center received from the Cleveland Food Bank.
The Cleveland Food Bank, a network of nearly 600 partnering agencies within six counties in northern Ohio, recently named the Walk of Faith Community Center (WOFCC) “Innovative Program of the Year 2011.” WOFCC, a Cleveland affiliate of Adventist Community Services, partnered with the Cleveland Food Bank in September 2009 to serve neighborhoods in Cleveland’s West Park community.
WOFCC’s food pantry is only open one day a week for two hours, yet serves an average of 400 individuals monthly by providing them with a five to seven day supply of food, free of charge. It is one of the only choice food pantries in the area. A choice pantry allows clients to “shop” for items they want rather than be given a pre-made bag of groceries. Volunteers assist clients with selections from different areas, including fresh produce, dairy, breads, canned goods, boxed items and toiletries. They then help clients transport the groceries to their car or bus stop. Impressed by their unique system, the United States Department of Agriculture selected WOFCC this summer as one of two food pantries to tour.
Due to space constraints in the pantry, staff set up a “waiting room” in the main dining area where volunteers serve refreshments and sit and talk with community customers. This enables neighbors an opportunity to share their lives and struggles.
“By building relationships with the community, we build trust,” expresses Lisa Falkenstein, director of WOFCC. “They feel as though they have been heard. They feel valued. Some even feel safe enough to come back and join us for a Sabbath!”
In addition to the pantry, WOFCC offers a variety of services to their community. They operate a clothing donation center and youth drop-in center and offer afterschool tutoring, weekday breakfasts, a Sabbath community meal, an Ohio Benefits Bank and various seminars. They also give the homeless access to a washer and dryer.