Thrift store

LIFE Ministries in Prairie Grove sees increased need for drive-thru pantry

PRAIRIE GROVE — LIFE Ministries drive-thru food pantry serves 250 to 275 older adults each month, significantly higher than before the pandemic, ministry officials say.

The all-volunteer ministry organizes a food day for people aged 65 and over on the fourth Saturday of the month. For the September drive-thru, on September 24, cars were lined up at the back of the building to pick up food, then lined up all the way down Stills Road, according to the ministry.

Richard Henderson, who runs the LIFE Ministries pantry, said he started seeing a big jump in numbers about four or five months ago.

When the pandemic began, the ministry was serving about 30 to 40 seniors on the monthly Seniors Food Day, Henderson said. When it started again with a drive-thru pantry, there were about 100-120 seniors passing through on a Saturday, then the latest increase in recent months.

In August, volunteers served 259 people, a record turnout, and ran out of food at 10 a.m. Henderson said the volunteers were able to prepare boxes of food for the extra people.

For September, Henderson said he was ready to serve 300 people, but the numbers were slightly lower at 246 people.

Bekah McCutcheon, who volunteers for Seniors Pantry Day, said they were older adults who needed help. Their retirement income has not increased while expenses have increased.

Old people tell her that the prices are exorbitant, she says.

“I’ll talk to them every time they come by,” McCutcheon said. “It’s hard for them to pay all their bills, pay for their medicine and, on top of that, pay for their groceries. It becomes difficult for them because they have a fixed income.”

In addition to Seniors Day, LIFE Ministries also provides food through its pantry on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Henderson said about 50 people are helped each week through this ministry. That number has remained fairly consistent throughout the pandemic, Henderson said.

LIFE Ministries is a nonprofit, faith-based organization that provides assistance to families and individuals living in western and southern Washington County. Supported by many churches in Prairie Grove and some in Farmington, LIFE stands for “Connecting People in Essentials.”

The department operates a thrift store in half of its building on Stills Road. Proceeds from the thrift store are used to help provide other aid to those in need.

Dale Harp, Alicia Wofford and Richard Henderson, all volunteers with LIFE Ministries in Prairie Grove, help out at a food day for seniors during the summer. Henderson coordinates the pantry for the ministry. (File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/Lynn Kutter)