Hungry to serve -- Skyline cuts ribbon for expanded food pantry



The needs of a family without enough food or warm clothes become painfully obvious to staff of Skyline Urban Ministry, says Claudia Lovelace, executive director of the United Methodist-related agency in south Oklahoma City.

During one family’s visit to Skyline, she saw a child tear hungrily into a slice of bread, relishing it as much as a piece of candy.

She reminds staff members to question any child who comes in on a cold day wearing only light clothes. "Ask him where his coat is."

On a trip to Skyline, a family might leave with a supply of groceries plus a coat for the child.

Rev. Lovelace and her staff are celebrating the recent ribbon-cutting of an expansive new Food Resource Center at Skyline’s campus, 500 S.E. 15 St. Completion of this building project, a collaboration with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, consolidates Skyline’s programs under one roof.

The $933,633 project was funded through a building campaign, a donation from the Oklahoma Conference, and a $150,000 grant from the Regional Food Bank, said Brandy Conrad, director of the Food Resource Center.

The project added 6,931 square feet to the Skyline facility, bringing it to a total of 10,959 square feet, Conrad said.

Clients previously had to go to a separate site, at 701 N.W. Eighth, to get donated food. Skyline has sold that property, an old church, to St. Anthony Hospital.

The well-stocked Food Resource Center is arranged like a small grocery store, with boxes and cans of food neatly lined up on shelves. Rather than receive a pre-selected box of provisions, clients pick what they need and like to eat. This system is called a "choice pantry."

Clients also can choose from baskets of fresh produce such as jalapeno peppers, onions, and oranges. Frozen foods are displayed in glass-fronted freezer cases at one side of the store.

The arrangement is popular with clients, Lovelace said. "All women like to shop."

During a tour of the new space after the ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 13, guests noted quart-size plastic bags of dry beans and rice on the shelves. Those represented the work of young volunteers from OKC-Southern Hills United Methodist Church.

The children portioned out the food from 50-pound bags as part of a service project. The rice and bean packaging is one of the few ways children are allowed to volunteer their services, Lovelace said, due to age restrictions.

A Food Resource Center client must show a form of photo identification, along with some type of identification for each person in the household, before shopping. Clients may visit up to six times a year.

Skyline’s Food Resource Center serves people from a wide area, but especially those who live nearby in a part of Oklahoma City that is considered a "food desert."

Conrad said a food desert is defined as an area without a grocery store within a 5-mile radius.

The Food Resource Center is open from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 1 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Volunteers to help with stocking food and shopping with clients are always needed, Conrad said.

During a visit to Skyline, clients with referrals can get free clothes at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Referrals can be made by a school counselor, church staff, or aid agency personnel on official letterhead of the referring agency.

On other weekdays, a shopper without a referral can select clothes at a price of 50 cents per item, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

"This is a clothes closet for the community," Lovelace said. "It’s there to help the community."

Skyline’s service extends beyond feeding the hungry. The ministry’s key values are: dignity first, end stereotypes, and the Golden Rule, according to its website.

Among other services:

  • An eye clinic staffed by optometrists who volunteer. Last year, 1,100 eye exams were performed. The clinic accepts donated frames; lenses cannot be reused, Conrad said.

  • A selection of prom dresses for high school students.

  • New coats for children, as well as hats and gloves.

  • School supplies and uniforms are distributed.

  • The Prime Timers program offers fellowship and meals for senior citizens.

See related story: Skyline director named outstanding OCU graduate

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Above: Brandy Conrad, director of Skyline’s Food Resource Center, examines canned food available to clients at the expanded site in Oklahoma City.

Below: Dignitaries cut the ribbon Nov. 13 for the center. From left are Conrad; Claudia Lovelace, Skyline executive director; Oklahoma Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.; Jerry Thompson, son of Skyline founder Mac Thompson; and Rodney W. Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

View video about the Food Resource Center