When people turn to state and government agencies for help, they may have to stand in a long line or be refused help if they don’t meet certain qualifications. Asbury Church Assistance Network (ACAN) removes that stigma with its food pantry, which serves more than 1,000 families each month according to Executive Director Janet Pack.
“Food is very expensive for everyone,” Pack said. “If you can help someone eat, it eases the financial burden in other areas.”
Severna Park may be considered an affluent area, she said, but there are many people in need.
“People feel like Severna Park is one of the richest areas in Anne Arundel County,” Pack said. “It seemed like there wasn’t a need. But we have a lot of clientele from Pasadena and Severna Park. We’re finding a lot of people who just don’t make the income to support living in this area. So they’re reaching out for help.”
Critical to the nonprofit’s mission is its delivery service.
“We have a variety of items which vary week to week, such as meats, produce, bread and dairy,” Pack said. “We’re branding our pantry as a pantry of choice. I’ve tried to set it up like a grocery store with a glass case where people pick what they want to eat and receive it without judgement. I don’t believe in just shoving food in a bag, because if it’s not healthy, we’re not helping them.”
The delivery service relies on a van with more than 250,000 miles. That van is so old that it broke down at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church hours before its scheduled appearance in the Severna Park Fourth of July parade. Providentially, a Severna Park resident offered the use of his personal vehicle, which allowed ACAN to still participate in the parade.
For now, ACAN’s efforts are concentrated in its headquarters behind Asbury Town Neck United Methodist Church, where people receive food and respect.
“We’ve outgrown the building we are in,” Pack said. “A lot of times we don’t have enough room for storage.”
Carrying out the mission gets harder, though, with a failing van and insufficient space.
Pack also plans for ACAN to provide wraparound services that will offer customers classes on nutrition and financial management with a goal toward self-sufficiency.
To help the nonprofit, checks can be made payable to Asbury Church Assistance Network and mailed to 429 Asbury Drive, Severna Park MD 21146. Donations can also be made at www.acansevernapark.org.
“When you can see the change, it makes a difference,” Pack said. “It’s helping a whole generation of people think differently.”