SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE
By Steve Page
WEST NEWTON – The George T. Goodwin Center appears to be all things for all people.
The center, located at 3935 W. Mooresville Road, near the intersection with Mars Hill Road, is billed as a senior center.
But it is much more than that.
The center, named for the WWII B-24 pilot who flew 50 missions in 1944, also hosts church services. Community organizations also use the building.
Mostly, though, it is a food pantry.
A vital food pantry.
“It’s a godsend to have this here!” exclaimed a shopper, who wished to be known only as Phyllis. “I know a lot of people come here for breakfast and lunch. It’s awesome!”
The center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The food pantry is open from noon to 2 p.m. or from 4 to 6 p.m. on every other Monday.
According to its website, the center “exists to enable families and individuals to connect with the community, to find the help they need and to improve their future.”
And if they’re hungry, it’s the place to be.
On a recent Monday, there were 60 shoppers in the morning and 125 more in the evening.
It’s the way the pantry is conducted that makes it so appetizing.
“We serve anyone,” says Executive Director Kelly Ivey. “They don’t have to live in the township. Just sign in and let us know how many people are in your home.”
Each shopper is given a grocery cart with four large paper bags. Six carts are allowed at one time so the room doesn’t get crowded. The shoppers go from table to table, picking what they need, with certain limitations on some goods so everybody gets a chance. They begin at the meat table. They then get a choice of vegetables and fruit before moving on to cereal and other breakfast foods, as well as peanut butter and jelly. There are also beverages such as tea and soda, and snacks like potato chips and dessert items.
Shoppers are served by Ivey and the dedicated staff, including Board President Judy Collins. Others are Patty Bailey, Evelyn Harrell, Cindy McVey and Norma Gaston.
The groceries are all new and name brand.
“You eat well when you shop here,” Ivey noted.
That’s because all the schools in Decatur Township have food drives for canned and non-perishable goods, with those foods going to the pantry.
“We get orders from Gleaners, Midwest Food Bank and Second Helpings,” Ivey said of other food sources. “We serve breakfast and lunch every day of the week. Second Helpings brings hot food.”
More than a pantry
“We have homeless people who come in and seniors come in to congregate,” said Ivey, who doubles as executive director of the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition. She’s also the wife of Decatur Central softball coach Don Ivey.
We partner with a lot of outside agencies like WIC,” she said of the federal assistance program for women, infants and children.
“We have bingo every Tuesday for our senior citizens. We play euchre on Wednesday. We have a computer station for them. It’s a spot for people to connect with family and friends. We share the building with community organizations. West Newton Friends had a church building which they tore down, so they come here. We also rent it out at a very low cost for things like birthdays, a celebration of life.
“On Thursdays, we partner with Camby Community Church. The pastor, Brad Long, comes in and talks.
Some of these people don’t have a church to go to, so we bring that to them here.
“We serve close to 150 people in the pantry,” Ivey said. “With family members, we’re serving close to 500 people.”
The offer of free food does more than fill the stomachs of attendees.
Saphira, the daughter of Phyllis, helped her mother shop.
“I like it,” she said. “It’s good they’ve got juice.”
Area resident Milton Moyer serves as cart attendant on shopping days.
“My wife, Margaret, was a kindergarten teacher for 28 years at Stephen Decatur,” he said. “You get in the habit of volunteering for everything. I have lunch here. You can find what the neighborhood news is, too!”
For more information, call 317-247-5201 or visit goodwincenter.org.
A couple checks groceries before leaving the Goodwin Center food pantry.
Executive Director Kelly Ivey catches up after a busy day in the Goodwin Center pantry.
Shoppers, aided by staff volunteers, make their way through the Goodwin Center food pantry.
This sign taikes up most of one side of the Goodwin Community Center in West Newton.