A few years ago, the Oakwood Area Food Pantry was at a crossroads.

The organization had $200 in its account and was considering dissolving. That’s when the nonprofit came to Heather McArtyHeather and friend in the garden

“They asked me if I would be willing to take it over, so I prayed about it,” she says. “It began in a local church’s basement, moved to a small offsite space that we rented until a property became available for purchase, which is our current location.”

Heather, who is VP, branch manager for INB Fairmount, has been executive director of the food pantry for five years.

“Eating is one of your basic needs, and if someone can’t provide for themselves, I believe we need to help provide for them,” she shares. “This is a direct way to help our neighbors and the people who need us the most.”

Weekly Distribution

The Oakwood Area Food Pantry serves seven rural communities in Vermilion County. Distribution is every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon.

“We serve people who need a leg up because they’ve been laid off or are low-income, like seniors. We’ve had people thank us with tears in their eyes because a husband was laid off or a widow comes in who has never grocery-shopped before and now doesn’t have extra income,” Heather says. “It’s important for them to know other people care about them.”

Heather McArty in the food pantry

In addition to Heather’s work, the food pantry has dedicated volunteers, including some of Heather’s own family members. Volunteers help sort donations, pass out food and tend to the food pantry’s produce garden.

Providing a ‘Hand-Up’

The food pantry is now a thriving operation and is making a positive impact on the community. Heather has gotten local schools and churches involved, as well as business support like INB’s.

“We are not providing the answer to a larger problem, but we’re giving a hand-up,” Heather, NMLS # 662896, says. “Community service plays a vital role in improving our society. It’s easy to complain about where you live, work, or go to school – but by volunteering, you get to choose to improve your world.”