For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.
Jana Crisman has had help along the way in creating the Matthew 25 Ministries Food Pantry in Shelbyville. But make no mistake, the grandmother of eight is the driving force behind feeding those in need in Shelby County.
Started approximately four years ago in a small room near the chapel at Trinity United Methodist Church, the pantry has grown large enough to now occupy the entire basement at the church located at 714 Fair Avenue near the Shelby County Fairgrounds.
“I had been talking about a food pantry here for a long time but I couldn’t get the older church members to be on board with something like that. They were set in their ways,” said Crisman, who lives near and has attended the church for many years.
Tim Green started attending the church and expressed an interest in helping Crisman get a food pantry established. With the motivated pair ready to go, the church pastor offered up a small room to get them started.
“Probably in the first five months or so we maybe helped five families with boxes of food I collected,” recalled Crisman.
Green eventually learned that Penske Logistics, a company that handles food and beverage transportation and has a warehouse in Shelbyville, worked with food pantries when it had excess supply. Penske agreed to work with M2M but it needed a covered truck to bring the food back to the pantry.
“I ended up baking cakes in my spare time and sticking money back to buy an old box truck to go out there and get food,” said Crisman, who was renting a U-haul truck weekly to make the food runs.
Despite the struggles, the work Crisman and Green were doing did not go unnoticed. She was nominated for WISH-TV’s “Wish Patrol” in 2017.
The Indianapolis television station showed up in Shelbyville to surprise Crisman. She received $3,000 in funding from two businesses but, more importantly, Koorsen Fire and Security donated a box truck to M2M Food Pantry.
That truck is still in use but Crisman ran into issues with Penske, who wanted a lift installed on the truck or to get it raised enough to match its dock height so forklifts could load it more efficiently. So while trying to find a way to alleviate another hurdle, Crisman received another box truck, which solved her dilemma, by a local company.
“I’ve never won anything like that,” said Crisman. “I’m a grandma from Shelbyville, Indiana, and they just gave me this truck. God has a way of working things out. With amazing people like that is how we’ve been able to keep doing what we’re doing.”
The food pantry is open at the church every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m.
“Anybody can come,” insisted Crisman. “We don’t penalize because they have a job. Most people around town work paycheck to paycheck. It’s just the way it is around here so missing a days worth of work or a week if they’re sick can put people in a financial bind. So they may need help, and they may turn around and come help us.”
In Crisman’s mind, the pantry is still too busy. That means she will not slow down seeking ways to collect enough food to meet the Tuesday night demands of her community.
“We have people crying when they leave here with a box of food,” she said. “I know we have some that take advantage but for every one of them there are 10 that are so appreciative that really, really need that food.”
While M2M Food Pantry has the means to transport the food it collects, those trucks require funds to operate. The pantry is in need of gas money to assist with the transport costs. There are other needs as well outside of food, including the need for volunteers to work sorting and preparing boxes of food for distribution.
If you can help, contact Crisman, The Shelbyville News Celebrity of the Month for December, at 317-364-0609.
The Shelbyville News' Celebrity of the Month
In September, The Shelbyville News took to Facebook to start a Celebrity of the Month contest. Followers on Facebook were asked to nominate two people who do good things in Shelby County.
Once two were selected, an online poll was set up on Facebook to let the people decide who will be selected the Celebrity of the Month.
Here is the list of winners:
September: Deb Dalley, a Waldron Elementary School teacher
October: Doug Cassidy, Bishopp's Appliances and member of the Shelbyville Plan Commission
November: Julia Hamblen, a junior at Shelbyville High School and leader in 4-H and FFA
December: Jana Crisman, co-founder of Matthew 25 Ministries Food Pantry
January: Vote now at The Shelbyville News' Facebook page for Dave Roller, a Nurse Liaison at Especially Kidz in Shelbyville, or Debi Daily, founder of The Shelbyville Free Site.