Partnership of Helps

There’s a unique partnership in Alderson that allows the community to support the less fortunate without needing to directly ask for money.  

The Alderson Ministerial Association (AMA) is made up of area churches located near Alderson, WV.  The association is open to all churches, with the primary members being the Alderson Presbyterian Church, Old Greenbrier Baptist, Johnson’s Memorial United Methodist Church, and The River of Life Church of God. Together the AMA oversees the Alderson Thrift Shop and the Alderson Food Pantry along with other programs.  

The Alderson Thrift Shop is located on US 12 on the edge of town in Greenbrier County and occupies a standalone building.  The Alderson Food Pantry is in the basement of the Alderson Presbyterian Church in Monroe County on US 3. The way these two programs work together is very clever.  The Alderson Thrift Shop accepts gently used, residential items from local donors and resells them to the public at discounted prices.  A portion of that income is shared with the pantry, which allows the pantry to buy supplemental food supplies which may be distributed without restriction. The purchased food along with food received from the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway (a Feeding America partner) allows the pantry’s manager, Brian DeRouen, to say, “no one will ever leave the pantry hungry”.

Currently the Alderson Food Pantry serves about 60 families in and around Alderson. Basically there are two levels of aid at the pantry, those who qualify and those who do not.  Many patrons need to meet federally set income levels in order to receive free food.  Others may not qualify based on income, but have fallen on difficult times and need help. There are qualifiers on the food received from Gassaway, but purchased food may be given away without any restrictions. DeRouen sees the pantry as a community service that can fill any gap and ensure no one is without food. This is where the support of the thrift shop is critical.  

The Alderson Thrift Shop primarily accepts and sells clothing, household items, and some tools.  There are plans to expand and begin processing furniture, but space is limited.  Mary Mitchell, the thrift shop manager, says their mission is to help people. This help comes in many different forms such as buying materials for home repairs, paying bills for needy residents, housing summertime work teams, families needing temporary housing (in the Center for Hope), and supporting the food pantry.  The thrift store support comes in the form of transferring a portion of the shop’s income to the pantry’s AMA account, which allows DeRouen to purchase additional food.  This supplemental food may be distributed without restrictions, which allows him to keep his pledge of “no one leaves the pantry hungry”.  

There are other sources for restrictionless food as well. Sometimes fresh vegetables are donated to the food pantry from different sources, including the Federal Prison Camp in Alderson and Sprouting Farms located near Talcott. These vegetables are freely distributed and the surplus is made available at the thrift shop in outdoor bins.  This helps move the garden grub quickly to prevent it from going bad. Honey and venison are favorite seasonal donations that disappear quickly. Older hunters who are no longer able to get out into the woods especially enjoy the wild meat the pantry can provide. The pantry usually buys hams and turkeys to help families celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  A realtors association, Krogers, and The United Way also donate to the food pantry. 

The food pantry also works with Alderson Elementary School by providing food to children who may not be able to get across the river once a month.  Teachers help identify foods that are popular with the children and make sure those children receive food for weekends.  A food cupboard at the school allows kids to be fed without going through paperwork and hoops and supplements their diet.  

The partnership between the food pantry and the thrift shop is an easily copied model that could be adopted by other food pantries and thrift shops in local communities.  Many organizations share the mission of “helping people” and sharing the workload can make it easier and more enjoyable.  A partnership between a food pantry and thrift shop also reduces the stress of fundraising because residents are eager to both donate and purchase second-hand items.

The Alderson Food Pantry is open every third Friday morning of the month from 9 to 10:30.  The Alderson Thrift Shop is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 4pm.  Both organizations are looking for volunteers.  Additional details and contract information are available on Facebook.