The Lifeway Center has recently been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. The grant is spread over two years to support operations of providing quality food and medical screening to those in the Dent County region.
The center is providing food and other services to an average of more than 1,000 people a month at its location on Highway 19 North, according to center records. It's an increase from 500 three to four years ago.
This is the third year the Lifeway Center has received funds from MFH, and this grant will provide 14 percent of the annual budget of $360,000.
"The grant from MFH is a tremendous help," said Dr. William Stack, director. "To know that 14 percent of our annual budget is already met for this year and next is a real relief. This will help immensely with supplies and equipment."
Stack said they also received a similar grant from them for 2009-2010, which was a little smaller.
"With the increased costs of running an operation like this, their support is an ongoing lifeline to the poorest of Dent County," he said.
The Lifeway Center is supported by donations from individuals, businesses and churches, as well as grants, tax-credits, and yard sales, and is staffed by 25 to 30 volunteers each month.
The original group of volunteers and directors are from Salem Full Gospel Church, but a steady stream of volunteers from other churches are also an important part of the work.
"We are feeding the poorest of the community here, so we are grateful for all the help the community and churches can offer," Stack said.
The Lifeway Center also participates with the Community Works program in Salem for additional staffing assistance.
"A couple weeks ago, Lou Trombley (Victor Baptist) came and built a produce cooler. This will help tremendously with garden season coming up," Stack said.
Stack said one thing that has helped fundraising is the diligent record-keeping that goes on. This helps keep track of every item of food distributed, and to whom, as well as every dollar received, and how it is spent. As a 501(c) 3 organization, the Lifeway Center is required to file documents with the IRS and the state of Missouri in a timely manner, and financial records are open to the public for review.
While the food pantry is the authorized distributor of commodities for Dent County, there are not nearly enough to go around, Stack said.
"Back when we were serving 300 people per month (2001), there might be four to five pallets of commodities, plus whatever we could afford in addition," Stack said. "Now, with over 1,000 people a month, there are one to two pallets of regular commodities, and the rest we have to secure from other sources."
Those other sources include discounted purchases from Country Mart, Ozarks Food Harvest, and Aldi's, donations from Walmart, local food drives, and fraternity/sorority club projects at MS&T.
"Some think that all our food is donated, but it is not," Stack said. "Much of the food, even from Ozarks Food Harvest, requires payment, at a rate of 22 cents a pound." All told, Lifeway gives away over $30,000 worth of food per month, to the most vulnerable of Dent County.
"We don't help with utilities - it is possible to live without electricity, but not without food," Stack said.
Patrons of the Lifeway Center also receive prayer, Biblical counsel and a listening ear, as well as Bible-based teachings on CD, at no charge.
"These are not forced on anyone, but are available to any who desire them, and many do." Stack said. "Many times, people just need someone to talk to; especially when they just lost their job, and are coming to the food pantry for the first time in their life."
In addition, the Lifeway Center was also chosen to participate in a challenge grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, where private donations will be matched, and donors will also receive Missouri tax-credits for their donation. The status of the Lifeway Center can be verified at the Attorney General's "Check-a-Charity" website. To donate time or resources, contact Dr. William A. Stack, Director, at 573-247-1116. Stack said they are working on updating the Lifeway Center website, but for now it is borrowing a webpage from Salem Full Gospel Church, with a link to the Attorney General's site at: