February 18, 2021 | by JB Brayfindley
“Everything we can, we are continuing to do,” states Gary Quintrell, office manager at First United Methodist Church in Eureka, California. Quintrell said Rev. Dr. Rebecca Irelan, assigned in July 2020, makes sure that the church keeps it’s ministry moving forward in spite of the pandemic.
“We’re known in the community for having food here,” Quintrell added. The church continues to provide food and clothing inside the church—but by appointment only now. A phone number is posted outside the locked office door. Office staff follow a pre-determined set of COVID-19 protocols.
Besides dispensing goods from the church office, the church has an outside pantry called the “Little Free Pantry.” It is stocked with non-perishable foods available to the public 24/7. The pantry is housed in a dispenser similar to a newspaper stand and sits outside on the church property.
This small pantry is one of many scattered around the city and throughout Humboldt County. An online map of all the dispensers in the county is provided by Cooperation Humboldt who also distributes the dispensers. Quintrell states that church members and the public can donate by driving to the different pantries and adding foods.
“People drive around and fill them up,” states Quintrell. “Take a little, leave a little…”
“We are making a more aggressive habit to keep the outside pantry full, so people don’t go hungry,” states Quintrell. First UMC reserves the first Sunday of each month for collecting non-perishable food for the free food pantries onsite as well as the local food bank. Usually, they collect one hundred pounds each month. Quintrell states that last month, their church members donated over 200 pounds of goods, doubling their normal goal.
“During the pandemic, [other] front line groups are not taking donations—they prefer cash donations instead,” states Quintrell. Many groups do not want volunteers exposed to COVID-19 while receiving goods, he adds. There are exceptions. Sometimes, there will be a “call out” requesting specific items to be donated to certain non-profits. And Quintrell notes that the church is quick to respond. “When there is a call out for items, we put that in the church newsletter and collect the needed supplies to donate.”
But the church gives funds as well to local groups and has had a long habit of raising funds to support the community’s needs.
“Over fifty-five years ago, we started an Advent Tea where we raise funds to sponsor local nonprofits,” explains Quintrell adding that the church has not only raised funds for local groups such as the local rescue mission and Betty Chinn Day Center for years, but, even during the pandemic, continues to send funds to support local noteworthy groups.
“In 2020, we sponsored the food bank and, can you believe it, a non-profit created by a 10-year-old, a 10-year old, who is providing toys and items for children in homeless families.”
For more information on Eureka UMC, read the church webpage and Facebook.
Little Free Pantry: https://littlefreepantry.org
Cooperation Humboldt: https://www.cooperationhumboldt.com
Betty Chinn’s Day Center: https://www.bettychinn.org/betty-kwan-chinn-day-center.html