By Conrad Dudderar
A Yukon woman who helped start a church food cupboard in the mid-1970s has been recognized for spearheading an effort that has fed tens of thousands of hungry people.
It all began with “a lack of access to food,” Manna Pantry founder Peggy Long said.
Long was the guest of honor at Manna Pantry’s volunteer appreciation dinner on April 8 at Trinity Baptist Church, 620 W Vandament.
During the previous 47 years, Manna Pantry became a reliable and well-known resource to meet the needs of Yukon’s hungry.
Having expanded its reach inside a new, more spacious venue, this emergency food pantry now helps people across Canadian County.
In the mid-‘70s, Long was a social worker in Canadian County. Her duties included verifying that people who applied for assistance were truly in need – and visiting homes of foster children.
It didn’t take long for Long to notice that Yukon had a problem – a lack of access to food for hungry clients.
The answer – a free food cupboard housed at a local church.
In 1975, Long approached her pastor at Yukon’s Resurrection Lutheran Church. He agreed to house a food store inside a church closet.
It soon became known as the “Manna Pantry.”
Within two years, the Manna Pantry had outgrown the space in Resurrection Lutheran Church at 675 W Vandament.
Yukon’s First Christian Church, at Sixth and Maple, willingly agreed to become Manna Pantry’s new home. Here it operated out of a small room and continued to serve Yukon’s hungry.
As the need to provide food grew, so did the need for space.
In 2003, the Yukon community – led by the Yukon Ministerial Alliance – joined forces to remodel a First Christian Church-owned house at 123 S Sixth.
This 800-square-foot house served as Manna Pantry’s home for the next 18 years.
“We presented a plaque to the First Christian Church for their unwavering support over 45 years,” said Sherri Rogers, Manna Pantry’s operations director.
KEEP ON GROWING
As needs continued to grow, Manna Pantry leaders started searching for an even larger facility to house its operations.
That place was identified in 2021 – the new Together We ministry on Trinity Baptist Church’s Yukon campus.
After construction was complete, Manna Pantry moved in January 2022 to a 2,000-square-foot space inside the Together We Center on Cemetery Road south of N.W. 10th.
“We are now serving people from across Canadian County – including Mustang, El Reno and Okarche,” Rogers said. “Our numbers are up since the move.
“During the first two weeks in April, we served 84 families. During the first two weeks in April last year, we had served 48 families.”
The new pantry site features a 1,700-square-foot store in front for clients to “shop” for groceries and a 300-square-foot warehouse in back.
Manna Pantry is in the middle of the Together We Center, flanked by a free healthcare clinic on the left and clothing boutique on the right.
The pantry is manned by volunteers and stocked through food drives and donations from churches, civic groups, businesses, individuals, local retail stores, and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
The April 8th volunteer appreciation dinner featured comments from Trinity Baptist Church Pastor Brian Mills, an opening prayer by Together We Center executive director Brian Grider and closing prayer by Together We Center board chairman Jonathan Hinkle.
A pasta dinner was catered by Primo’s Italian restaurant. Entertainment was provided by the Yukon High School Steel Pan Ensemble.
Several volunteers who attended won door prizes including gift cards and a “lunch-able” tray.
Manna Pantry’s hours of operation are Tuesday from 3-6 p.m., Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon, Thursday from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
For more information, call (405) 265-0193.