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By Staff | Mar 18, 2014

Jennifer Bender of Montgomery, opened the Food Bank two years ago in Montgomery after the program closed at the former Lutheran Church on Houston Ave. Called the Footprints of Montgomery, the program is now operates from an old warehouse they renovated on Bower Street Extension which used to be an old furniture mill.

MONTGOMERY – It has been a long process and there was really no place to go after the Lutheran Church on Houston Ave. closed down in Montgomery. These concerns were expressed after Jennifer Bender, a local resident and volunteer at the Food Bank re-opened a new facility almost two years ago on Bower Street extension.

Bender had been volunteering for the past four years and also received the required certification and training to operate Montgomery’s own Food Bank.

Now known as Footprints of Montgomery, the program is open on the second Tuesday of every month from 3 to 6 p.m. to the community. It is located in a warehouse building that used to be a furniture factory and the space was donated by owner Gary Newcomer.

Prior to this it was operated for two years in the Lutheran “Brick Church” on Rt. 405. However, it was too far for many to travel, according to Bender.

“The new location is more neutral ground,” she stated. It is perfect she said pointing to the large docks for the trucks that deliver the food and other needed supplies. “We have lots of storage here.”

Footprints of Montgomery, the local food bank, is open the second Tuesday of every month from 3-6 p.m. It is entirely dependent on donations. Jennifer Bender acquired 4 chest freezers with a grant and hopes to open more space for clothing drives.

Bender, her husband, Michael and 4 children all helped to rip out old paneling and put in new insulation, walls, and fresh paint. “We tore everything up,” she said. “This has been our second winter here. There was no heat the first winter.”

Footprints relies primarily on donations. She said that local churches and the Montgomery Lions are a big help with donations. Weis Markets also donates food once a month. “Sometimes supplies and budget get low, and so far God always provides for us.”

To accommodate frozen and more perishable foods, four large deep chest freezers were purchased with grants and one refrigerator was donated by Beiters.

At some point, Jennifer hopes to open up more space for clothing drives. “I want to make this more available to serve the community,” she said. “There is a big need.”

In 2012 the program served 20 families and now it is up to 70 according to Bender. To be eligible, one must be a resident of Montgomery with proof of address. Residents sign in and declare if they are a large, small or medium family. Many, who are seniors and single families, walk over from the housing developments. It is close for them and volunteers are available to assist anyone who needs help carrying items. Bender said more volunteers are always needed and that her teenage son Bryant, and her daughter Kaitlyn along with their friends, are a big help. “The first hour is the busiest.”

Footprints of Montgomery is an “umbrella” of the New Covenant Assembly of God in Montgomery under the guidance of Pastor James R. Pentz who was a big help in finding the new location.

The name was already established, taken from the familiar poem, “Footprints in the Sand.” Food and supplies are usually ordered and purchased from the Central PA Food Bank. However, the more donations that are received, the less the program needs to rely on purchasing food.

Bender added that the organization is applying for a grant to start a short feeding four week program this summer for the elementary school students. “42 percent of the student body is on reduced or free lunches,” she said.

Besides volunteering her time at ‘Footprints’ Jennifer who has a degree in human services, also works part time. She credits her family and four children including Gabriel and Madeline for giving up their time to help clean and move everything.

Donations or volunteer time can be received by calling Pastor Pentz at 570-474-1503.