At a time when intense tribalism grips our country, two diverse groups in Concord, North Carolina, have found a way to come together for a good cause. Pastor Nathan King, representing Trinity United Church of Christ (UCC), and J. Rodger Clark, the director of planned giving for the Humanist Foundation and a member of the North State Humanists, joined forces to create, dedicate, and support what’s known as a “community pantry,” offering free food and supplies to those who are struggling.
“The humanist community, among other things, seeks to bring about a better life for all in this world. We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people,” Clark notes,” adding how inspiring it is that the members and friends of the North State Humanists are partnering with a local church like Trinity UCC to ensure some of the basic needs of area residents are met. “This is an important issue of common concern.”
Trinity UCC was equally compelled. As King explains, his church has a mission to help people in need, and while their pancake breakfasts and community dinners were serving hungry people twice each month, they thought they could do more. “Our Community Pantry partnership with North State Humanists helps people around the clock with basic needs,” says King. “That’s a good thing for everybody.”
North State Humanists has been a chapter of the American Humanist Association since 2016 and has approximately 130 members, with fifteen to twenty active and attending members. According to Jack Kimball, president and founder of the Concord chapter,
Since its inception, members of the North State Humanists were interested in developing some type of community outreach project like a street pantry, but the young group was not sure what could be done with such limited resources. Knowing that each journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, one of the members simply began building a box using scrap wood. After a week a box was built and ready to mount. The next issue North State faced was where to install the pantry.
Initially government organizations responsible for providing community social services were considered. However, the main issue was installing the pantry permanently, so this idea did not seem workable. A member of North State who is also involved with Trinity UCC thought of the church because it’s a socially conscience, gay-affirming, liberal congregation. The church is located in uptown Concord along a busy street a short distance from the city hall, the police station, and the homeless shelter. It was an ideal location for providing assistance to help people living on the street. A partnership between the humanist group and the church was proposed. The church governing consistory approved the union, thus the pantry found a permanent home.
“This project has been an evolving, learning experience for North State Humanists,” says Kimball. “It turns out building the box was the easy part. It was truly only the first step. Keeping the pantry supplied is the ongoing journey for our chapter, but the response has been positive and our chapter looks forward to stepping up to the challenges ahead.”
The distinctive red pantry contains an assortment of individually packaged food, water, clothing, and toiletry items accessible to people living in shelters and on the streets in Concord. All pantry items are free and available twenty-four hours a day. The pantry is located at 38 Church Street North in uptown Concord. Donations may be made to Trinity United Church of Christ or North State Humanists. All food donations must be individually sealed and packaged by the manufacturer. No fresh fruits or vegetables.
For more information about the Community Pantry, contact Jack Kendall at (704) 706-4215 or go to the Little Free Pantry website for remote donation options. Information on North State Humanists can be found on Facebook or their Meetup page.