In the last few months, Agape Community Center, 6100 N. 42th St., has added two new services to its programming: a food pantry and a health care center. Agape has been serving the Thurston Woods community since 1986.
“A lot of the programs we have are not necessarily a hand-out, but more of a hand-up,” said Al Luzi, director of development at the center. “We want to help people maintain where they are in terms of economic standing and help them progress further. The addition of the food pantry and health clinic will help us to continue that endeavor.”
The Agape Community Center was started by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother as a meal program. Last year, the center served about 19,000 meals to almost 13,000 people. The community meal program takes place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
The center also boasts a variety of other programs, including after-school activities for children and adult education.
The neighborhood used to have a food pantry at the Florist Avenue Lutheran Church, 5975 N. 40th St. This summer though, the pantry shut down.
“We had the ability and the capability to do this, so we stepped forward,” said Luzi.
The pantry opened in mid-September and is now open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Since it opened, 400 families have utilized the food pantry.
Luzi said the pantry’s patrons are the “working poor, who are right on the edge of poverty. The food pantry helps fill a void and make their income go a little further.”
Visitors to the pantry can choose the products they want. Choices include peanut butter, canned vegetables, beef stew, juice, toilet paper and personal care products. Hunger Task Force restocks the pantry every two weeks.
“The population we provide for mostly have minimum wage jobs that don’t provide health insurance,” said Luzi, adding that this resource helps reduce the stress of not having health insurance.
Heather Felzer, clinical assistant professor at Columbia College of Nursing, helps oversee student nurses who staff the center. “In doing our recent assessment, we realized that there are not a lot of health care services in this area, so I think having this does fulfill a need,” Felzer said.
In addition to providing health education, the health center’s nurses can recommend treatments for simple ailments or refer people to a provider. They also can conduct health screenings, including blood pressure exams, eyes exams and school physicals. According to the Agape web site, the health center will be closed until Jan. 20 and will reopen with new days and hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 6 p.m.
Luzi said that community members appreciate the new programs. “You know you are making a difference because [of] those little things like saying thank you. [They’re saying] ‘thank you for getting me something,’” he added.