Revamped food pantry in Mooresville offers choices

As she filled her shopping cart with fruits, vegetables, breads, soup and hummus, Joan Tillman could have been stocking up at any grocery store on Tuesday.

For three years, however, she’s relied on The Christian Mission of Mooresville/Lake Norman for help with food and clothes – ever since her husband of 64 years, Herb, became weak and ill.

Until Tuesday, Joan Tillman, 82, of Mooresville received whatever food the mission put in a pre-packed bag or box. Sometimes, she’d look at what was inside and give some of it away in the mission’s parking lot because it wasn’t part of her and her husband’s diet.

That’s why she was elated to be among the first shoppers at The Christian Mission’s new Client Choice Pantry. With help from mission staff member Marie Thompson, she filled her basket with what she knew she and her husband would eat.

“This is fun!” Tillman said as she steered her cart. She was barely tall enough to see above the cart’s handle.

She said the pantry will cut down on waste and is a great addition to The Christian Mission, which provided various services to 4,800 families in its latest budget year, up from 4,000 the previous year.

Executive Director Valerie Chamberlain said she’d considered converting the pantry to client choice for several years.

It finally happened thanks to volunteer Susan Hrovat, who managed a pantry three times the size of Mooresville’s in Naperville, Ill., for three years. She moved to Mooresville six months ago when her husband’s job at Electrolux transferred to Charlotte.

The pantry joins others in the Charlotte region that are now client choice. Charlotte-based Loaves & Fishes, which in 2013 provided groceries to 105,015 people, converted its pantries 3 1/2 years ago, Executive Director Beverly Howard said.

“Among the many benefits, no food gets wasted,” she said. “And it’s so much more dignified for the clients,” who choose their food rather than having it chosen for them.

In Mooresville, about 1,650 families a month receive food at the 75-year-old Christian Mission. And the number continues to climb.

“You think the economy is getting better?” Megan Lynch, the mission’s director of development and marketing, asked about 50 people gathered for a ribbon cutting for the Client’s Choice Pantry. “It may not be getting so much better for the working poor.”