By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — House of Refuge Bible Church, located on North Main Street in Newkirk, has for a number of months served as the food pantry for the community, offering food to those who are disadvantaged and may not be able to easily obtain it. The church is now better able to serve those community members, thanks to a recent Newkirk Post Office (NPO) food drive, May 11, which brought in about 2,000 pounds of food that can now be distributed to the community.
It is the second year that the NPO participated in the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, a national drive sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Postal workers previously had left bags for customers to fill with non-perishable items, such as canned and boxed items, and workers across the country collected those bags, to be distributed to local and state food banks. However, a few items continued to trickle into the NPO through the next few days.
“We’re always happy when people bring it in, we’re always happy when people stop by during the day,” said Postmaster Kerry Ebbert.
Once all the food items had been collected and weighed, the NPO realized they had collected 1,924 pounds of food, just shy of 2,000.
“We want to thank the community for providing the support,” he said.
Most food collected in Oklahoma is distributed through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, which assists communities across central and western Oklahoma. The NPO wanted to keep it local to support Newkirk citizens, however, and in 2018, split the food between House of Refuge and First United Methodist Church. For 2019, all food was donated to House of Refuge, delivered May 12.
Several church members participated in the food drive, including Pastor Doug Gatchell, Stephen Byers and Kevin Smithsons and his children, Moriah and Aryal. The church members divided the community to collect the bags to assist the postal workers.
“We went up and down (the streets), helping out the mail carriers, looking for bags or boxes of food on the porch, and picked them up, making the burden on the carriers easier,” Gatchell said.
Once the church had gone through the donations, they estimated the collection at about 50-60 cases, a needed addition to the food bank.
“We have been averaging anywhere between 10-20 boxes or more a month,” Gatchell said, referencing the number of boxes they give out the community monthly. “Our green bean shelf was empty, and now our green bean shelf is overflowing, so we’re very fortunate to the food drive, and the post office.”
House of Refuge also receives donations from across the community, including local individuals as well as businesses.
“In December, Apple Market had a special where they were doing a promotion to feed the hungry, and they collected quite a bit of food, and they gave it to us, and now the post office has given to us, so we rely on the community,” Gatchell said.
House of Refuge was surprised at the large donation given to the Church, and is very fortunate to receive such support from so many community members.
“We are honored and blessed. We were literally surprised at the donations, and are very thankful,” he said. “We want to thank the NPO for doing the food drive, and the people who gave, and cleaned up after the storm.”