Hands of Hope pic

Hands of Hope workers, from left, Renee Spicer, Karen Cole, Linda Dunsworth and Rachel Harmon work to get the new food pantry located at 101B South Russell Street open for business this week.

A new food pantry is opening in Portland to help those in need of meeting basic needs.

Hands of Hope, located at 101B South Russell Street, is an appointment only food pantry where people can come and get groceries free of charge. The pantry was scheduled to be open for the first day on Feb. 4 and is slated to be open each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

For those who need to come by, they are asked to Karen Cole at 615-448-5742 or email at redraven615@aol.com to schedule their appointment.

“They can come in and fill out an intake form. It will give information of where they are, how many are in their household, and we’ll call and schedule them an appointment,” Cole said. “That way, they can come in and we can help them shop It’s like a free grocery store. We just had Funk Family Farm donate four hogs. They are being processed, so we’ll have pork meat.”

Part of the reason for having people schedule appointments to come and pick up items is that space and parking are both limited, and the group wants Hands of Hope to be able to help in the community without having long lines of people and cars cluttering up the area and potentially bothering neighboring businesses.

“We want to be a blessing. We do not want to be hindrance,” said Renee Spicer, who is also involved with the project.

While the pantry will be open this week, there is also a grand opening scheduled for later on in February, which will feature a barbecue, a ribbon-cutting with the Portland Chamber of Commerce and other special events to be scheduled.

Cole is assisted by Spicer, Rachel Harmon and Linda Dunsworth. The group welcomes anyone who would like to volunteer or anyone who wishes to make a donation to the food pantry — be that food items or monetary contributions.

“Anybody that wants to volunteer or make a donation, we’ll put it to good use,” Spicer said.

“High schoolers are welcome to come in in the afternoon,” Cole said. “It’s good community service, and anybody that needs community service (hours) is welcome to come in. We’ll let them walk around with the people and help them take things to their cars.”

Hands of Hope also has a blessing box out front where people can donate or take non-perishable food items as needed, no questions asked.

“We also have a blessing box out front so people can donate. It’s like the one at the Oasis Church. It’s going to be full of stuff, so if anybody needs something to eat, they can come by,” Spicer said. “Our mission is spreading hope one hand at a time.”

The group has been working together to make Hands of Hope a reality since last November, and with the support of several donors and volunteers, has turned the project into a reality in a relatively short amount of time.

“We’ve been working together since Thanksgiving, providing meals for Thanksgiving. We’re working on our non-profit status, so anything anybody donates will be a tax write-off,” Spicer said.

Cole, who had been working with another group in the community, went out on her own to help start Hands of Hope.

“It’s been my dream for way over a year. We got together around Thanksgiving time. Hands of Hope started at the first of January,” she said. “We just came together, opened up this pantry, and we’re going to feed the community. We’ve had donations come from the community from a lot of individuals.

“I was with another group and kind of just wanted more of a pantry-like thing. I’ve always wanted the building, always wanted the pantry. That’s kind of what I was striving for. So I just went out on my own and gathered my group. We had a big support group. We talked about it and decided and that’s what we did.”

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