The pantry began operations in February, 2004 as a project of the St. George Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Today it is known as the Affton Christian Food Pantry; an organization managed and controlled by fifteen different churches in the Affton area. The growth that occurred during the nine+ years of its existence can be chronicled by recognizing landmark events. Also during this period of growth the unique character of the pantry was taking shape. The pantry’s character can be defined by several words. Interestingly, those words all begin with the letter ‘C’.
February 21, 2004
The food pantry officially opened with a blessing ceremony in the old St. George auditorium building circa (1926). The stated mission was to feed the hungry in the territory surrounding St. George, an unincorporated area of St. LouisCounty. Clients were admitted and invited to shop on the following Tuesday and Saturday. Five clients were served in that first week of operations. The character feature of the pantry, as defined by the word ‘choice’, was established when the first item selected by the first client served in the pantry on that first visit was an item of his/her choice. As a matter of fact, every item selected in all client visits throughout the entire eight + year pantry history has been a client chosen item.
August 5, 2004
The pantry’s application for membership in the St. Louis Area Food Bank was approved and accepted. Access to the considerable inventory of free, or at very low cost, food is a benefit of membership in StLAFB. The Boy Scouts of America annual food drive, the largest collection of donated food in the country, is handled in the St. Louis area by StLAFB.
A meeting, hosted by Salem Lutheran Church and held in their Church Meeting Room, took place. This meeting was the direct result of conversations between representatives of Salem Lutheran and St. George. Those conversations focused on a goal to expand the outreach of the food pantry. The proposal was to involve Christian churches of various denominations and to serve clients covering a wider area. A letter of invitation was sent to the pastors of over 30 neighboring churches. Twelve responded favorably and attended the meeting. As a result of the interest shown, an agreement was reached to continue discussions on the idea.
March 5, 2006
The pantry’s application for membership in Operation Food Search was approved and accepted. OFS is the other food bank serving St. Louis and the surrounding area. Shortly after the pantry became an OFS member, an application for membership in OFS was granted to the St. Dominic Savio Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. This organization operates a vehicle that in its previous life was a school bus. Thus it is titled ‘The Little Yellow Food Bus’. A commitment was made by the operators of the LYB wherein they would make many OFS food pick ups for the pantry. This meant that three, and sometimes, four times a week, food from OFS would be delivered to the pantry via the LYB. The character feature of the pantry, as defined by the word ‘commitment’ is exemplified by the work of the LYB. Commitment is also demonstrated by every volunteer visit, every supporter contribution and every prayer said for the pantry.
July 19, 2006
A little more than two years after the start of the pantry, in a gathering in the St. George Rectory meeting room, representatives of seven churches in the Afftonarea declared their support for the creation of the Affton Christian Food Pantry. The attendees were representatives from: Affton Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), St. Dominic Savio (Catholic), St. George (Catholic), St. Mark (Catholic), Salem Lutheran (Lutheran), Seven Holy Founders (Catholic) and Zion Methodist (Methodist). The action taken at that meeting changed the name of the operation but did not change the management and control of the pantry. It did however, set in motion a process. To make a complete transition from the St. George food pantry to the Affton Christian Food Pantry, it would be necessary to establish a legal entity granting authority to operate in an expanded area and under the direction of multiple Christian churches of different denominations. An ad hoc committee, consisting of a representative from each of the seven original churches, was set up to accomplish the transition. The character feature of the pantry, as defined by the word ’Christian’, was clearly established. More specifically, the ecumenical Christian character defined who ACFP was, what it did and why it did it. It is the second word in its name.
May 1, 2007
A lease was signed for a pantry cell phone. Prior to leasing this phone, except for letters, most pantry communication with clients was done using a very impersonal voice messaging system. The use of this phone greatly improved the quality of communication between clients and ACFP.
Aug. 14, 2007
Since its beginning, the pantry was scheduled to be open every Tuesday from 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM and on Saturdays from 9:00 AM – 11 AM. To better accommodate a growing client population, hours were extended by adding an extra half hour to the beginning of the Tuesday schedule and an extra half hour to the end of the Saturday schedule.
March 26, 2008
The ad hoc committee established after the 7/19/06 agreement began holding regular meetings. While acting in an advisory role to the pantry, this group set the course which had as its goal to become an officially recognized organization with a mission to feed the poor in the area. To be official, there had to be a Board of Directors that operated according to a defined set of by-laws. Those by-laws were approved on this date.
Aug. 8, 2008
The application for ACFP to become a recognized Missouri not-for-profit corporation was approved. ACFP was now official. The organization was to be led by a Board of Directors consisting of officers and members. Officers were a President, a Vice President, Secretary and a Treasurer. Members were appointed; one representative from each member church. The original group of 7 churches expanded to 10 by adding: Cure of Ars (Catholic), Our Lady of Providence(Catholic) and Rooftop Community Church (Inter-denominational). The character feature of the pantry, as defined by the word ‘Community’ was firmly established. ACFP could claim to be a community of ten different churches with a common mission. As long as it remained true to its mission, it would be a community of the faithful. It served a community – the community of Affton – the first word in its official name. It served Affton along with other community resources, i.e. the Affton School District, the Affton Chamber of Commerce and notably, because of the similarity of mission, the six different St. Vincent de Paul conferences in the area.
After being accepted as a Missouri not-for-profit corporation, ACFP was now authorized to make ‘sales tax free’ purchases.
Nov. 6, 2008
The client population continued to grow. To better serve those clients, it was decided to add Thursday evening from 6:00PM – 8:00 PM to the list of open hours. This change also added some balance by offering pantry services in the morning, the afternoon and evening of every week. Unique about the Thursday schedule was the fact that a different member church would take full responsibility for managing the pantry on its assigned day. Rooftop was assigned every 1st and every 5th Thursday, St. Simon, which had not yet committed to becoming a full fledged member, was assigned every 2nd Thursday, Zion Methodist was assigned every 3rd Thursday and St. Dominic Savio every 4th Thursday. This was thought to be the model for scheduling all future pantry openings.
April 1, 2009
The control and ownership of the pantry was officially transferred from the St. George Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society to the Affton Christian Food Pantry. A transfer of all tangible and intangible assets, all obligations and all unpaid debts was made, as well as the responsibility to manage those assets, meet those obligations and pay those debts. On that date, ACFP received a precious gift.
June 24, 2009
St.Simon the Apostle (Catholic) became the eleventh church to join the ACFP family. Several months prior, a decision was made to hire the pantry’s first paid employee. Aug. 8, 2009 was the official start date of a new executive director. The position was added to the list of Board of Directors officers.
January 30, 2010
The pantry moved to a new location in an area next to the recently renovated St. George Parish Center. To efficiently move the pantry’s equipment, supplies and inventory to its new home required many months of planning. With a minimum of disruption to regular operations, the move was completed in two days. Only one pantry opening day was cancelled from the normal schedule. To avoid conflicts that could arise, the pantry’s Tuesday schedule was changed to 4:00 PM– 6:30 PM.
There were many individuals and organization to thank for properly equipping the new facility and scheduling the move. To give credit to all deserving of recognition is next to impossible but one organization deserves special mention. Shop N Save donated, delivered and installed supermarket shelving according to our requested specifications and schedule.
This move is considered a major pantry accomplishment.
April 25, 2010
The new pantry facility was blessed in a dedication ceremony. Representatives from each member church were on hand for the blessing. The program included music and songs by the Rooftop musicians under the direction of their Minister of Music.
October 27, 2010
The Rome Group, an organization that specializes in providing direction and guidance to non-profits, prepared and presented the pantry with a three year strategic plan. Funding for the study was provided by a grant received from the Lutheran Foundation. The Board approved the plan and began its implementation by establishing a number of standing committees. The plan strongly recommended that committee staff include non-board members.
Aug. 27, 2011
A trivia night fund raiser to benefit the pantry was held at the Elks Club on Heege Rd.This was the first such fund raiser organized and planned by the fund raising committee of the pantry; a direct recommendation coming from the Rome Group strategic plan.
Oct. 10, 2011
A van was purchased. Prior to this purchase, all pick-ups and deliveries of pantry items were made by volunteers using their personal vehicles. By acquiring a van, considerable flexibility was added in scheduling pick-ups and deliveries. It also relieved volunteers of a responsibility associated with driving one’s personal vehicle. A garage was rented which added an increased level of protection.
Oct. 15, 2011
A Health Fair, sponsored by the pantry, was held in the St George Parish Center – the room directly across the aisle from the food pantry. This was the first ACFP project of its kind that was not directly related to providing food for the poor. Funding for this project came from the St. Anthony’s Charitable Foundation Physicians Ambassadors.
2012…and looking ahead
The ACFP continues to grow, to meet the needs of the Affton community. In April 2012, Church of the Reformation – Lutheran joined the ACFP. In 2013, Affton Presbyterian Church and New Apostolic Church joined our ranks, bringing our member churches to 14. In 2015, Eden United Church of Christ brought our membership up to 15 churches.
ACFP continues to expand its fundraising to include a direct mail campaign in the spring, a trivia night in August, and a beer dinner in the fall. The Executive Director seeks out grant opportunities to help the pantry meet its mission.
ACFP looks forward to the future, to serving those in need in our community, and to strengthening partnerships with area schools, businesses, and community organizations, knowing that together, we can make a difference!