Updated: Apr 30
Phil Byron (left), Heaven's Storehouse food pantry director, serves with a smile. His mantra is, "We're family here. We serve with love."
Every Wednesday at 10:30 AM every member of the Middletown-Portland, CT church distributes food to 50 to 100 families at their Heaven’s Storehouse food pantry. Some members and volunteers come earlier to pick up food donations from local grocery stores and to organize, and some members can only come as their work schedule permits. Phil Byron, the food pantry director, closes his lawn care business on Wednesdays to accommodate this ministry.
Even with this level of member involvement, Byron maintains that “God keeps this food pantry running.” When the Middletown-Portland church decided to open a food pantry in the empty school building behind the church, there were only 15 members in their congregation, and both church and school buildings needed repairs. But God has provided for every one of their needs.
They cleaned, painted, and filled out applications with the town. Every application required a fee. When the health department required them to install what amounted to a food service kitchen, Byron dropped to his knees and prayed, “God, we didn’t come all this way to have the doors shut.”
The health department called back. “I've got some good news for you. I've been ordered not to have anything to do with food pantries. You’re all set.”
Next the furnace and heating system needed replacing, an expense of over $10,000. The church met every night for a week to pray for God’s guidance. Perhaps this was time to shut down the church or move to a new location. Then a pastor called to ask if his congregation could rent the church for their Sunday services. They didn’t mind that the church was undergoing repair and offered to pay $3000 per month. With this income, the Middletown-Portland church borrowed money to cover the cost of all the repairs and paid back the loan in record time.
In 2019, the food bank that supplies much of the food they distribute increased their annual membership fee to $1000. “We don’t have that kind of money,” Byron responded, “but God will provide. We’ll get it to you.” The food bank soon called back to say that they had just received a $1000 donation in Heaven's Storehouse's name. Many other miracles and donations continue to keep the food pantry functioning.
Volunteers from the community and other Adventist churches, several homeschooled young people, and high school students who need community service hours come to help. With God’s blessings and total member involvement, Heaven’s Storehouse has served the community continuously since 2017, even during the pandemic.
The food pantry moved its operation outside during the pandemic, but never once shut down. Left photo: Byron (left), food pantry director; Michael Pelletier (center), pastor during the pandemic; and Joy Slingo (right), food pantry assistant director.