The Joe LeBlanc Food Pantry celebrated its first distribution day at its new location Saturday.
Executive Director Jessica Lewis was all smiles as she watched as hundreds came through the doors to receive support to help combat hunger.
“It’s taken us over a year to get here, but it’s exciting,” she said. “It’s a little bit overwhelming, we are still trying to figure out the flow of things, but everyone is very excited.”
The pantry is a ministry of the Christian Church at Minden and in 2016 they signed a 10-year lease with the state to use the former Northwest Louisiana Technical College building on Constable Street.
The pantry, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, made the move from its downtown location on Broadway to the new location at the end of August.
“Without the community’s support, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Lewis said. “The support is just huge and we are very thankful.”
Lewis said more than 500 people are registered with JLFP and estimated between 450 and 500 showed up Saturday morning. Distribution day takes place the third Saturday of each month and kicks off around 9 a.m.
As the line began to shorten to a few people around 10:30 a.m., Lewis was overjoyed saying the line was usually still wrapped around the building at that time, but the larger location allowed volunteers to work more efficiently.
Volunteers quickly checked people in and provided them a snack before loading groceries in their cars. Volunteers also offered to pray with anyone that who wished.
“Volunteering for the food pantry is rewarding because it’s a way of giving back to the community, and this community definitely deserves it,” volunteer Matthew Ledet said. “Knowing each bag of food carried out is saving a family from hunger definitely makes volunteering worth it.”
St. Luke Episcopal Medical van was also at the distribution providing free health screenings. They plan to set up each month at the pantry on distribution day, moving from their previous location each month at Save-A-Lot.
JLFP was started by Joe LeBlanc as a means to helping families in Webster Parish though the economic fall in a 12×12 room at the church. In 2016, the pantry served 3,482 children, 5,705 adults and 1,305 seniors.
Saturday, the pantry will host a fundraiser, The JLFP Hunger Games.
“It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year,” Lewis said. “We have had some amazing sponsors from the community.”
Three events will take place across the city. A 5k/Family Fun Run will take place at the pantry’s new location, a golf tournament will tee off at Pine Hills Country Club and a softball tournament will take place at the Minden Recreation Complex.
“This is the second year for the 5K, and first year for the golf and softball tournaments,” she said. “ We plan on doing all three each year, but maybe spreading them out over the year.”
Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt will also be set up at the 5K and Miss Minden Abby Reynolds will be assisting with the run. Awards for the largest group, most spirited group, and the best dressed as
Mr. Hunger Fighter will also be presented.
For more information on the pantry or The JLFP Hunger Games, call 318-299-6375 or like them on Facebook.