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Let’s Talk Celebrates PMEHM 
Pocono Mountain Ecumenical Hunger Ministry

It Takes a Village...

This ministry is a collaborative effort. Established in 1985, the PMEHM has spent the last 29 years servicing the families of the Pocono Mountains. With a Director, Assistant Director, staff and volunteers all on a first name basis, this ministry felt like one big culturally diverse family. As the work day begins, egos are checked at the door and a servant-minded team emerges that runs like well-oiled machinery.  Mike, also known in the community as Coach Stern, is a hard-working pillar in the community. He is centered on both service and accountability.  Anyone who has seen him in action as he registers the young men he coaches through the PYBA knows he is a no-nonsense kind of guy who both gives and expects patience, love, kindness and respect. Mary, who is the programs assistant director, was a most gracious (and busy) tour guide during my visit and she explained to me how the program has been able to run so smoothly and continue to flourish over the past 29 years.

For starters, both Mike and Mary make it abundantly clear, they do not work in isolation. Mike was immediate to credit his staff and volunteers for their dedication and service to the ministry; likewise Mary wanted to make sure it was understood the program also flourishes because of an extended church family. There are six churches that financially aid and support PMEHM. They include: Tobyhanna United Methodist Church, The Most Holy Trinity, The Kekee United Methodist Church, Mt. Pocono Methodist Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Lutheran Church of Our Savior. Together this community of hunger fighting activist are making an impact on hunger in the Pocono Mountains.

Who Qualifies for Assistance?

With the development of any system comes the potentiality for fraudulent activity and food pantries are not the exception to this rule.  Mary is aware of the reality of assistance fraud but she refuses to focus on the negative. For this mission, she has a goal which is, “To supply a 3 day supply of non-perishable foods, frozen meat and bread to families in Monroe County that qualify,” The addition of the term, “that qualifies” implies that there is (and rightfully so) an application process. To reduce the threat of assistance abuse while still addressing the needs of the community is the application process goal; a short, simple to read and easy to understand questionnaire is required of each recipient. This process also allows the ministry to stay accountable to the Federal government. For the most part, the income guidelines are the same as public welfare, so if your family or an individual qualifies for cash, food-stamps or medical assistance, they would also qualify for the food pantry.

     Depending on the household’s composition, residents will receive one of three pre-packed baskets which are labeled small, medium and large in accordance with household size. I can attest from watching the volunteers pack the baskets that even the “small” basket includes an abundance of sustenance.  Another safeguard against fraud is verification of PA residency. Valid and current PA ID is shown at every visit. This is a process that is not intended to be tedious or extraneous by any stretch of the imagination but rather designed to assist as many families as possible including the usage of bilingual applications and allowing neighbors to collect food for qualifying members without cars. The pantry operates on a number system giving out tickets from 1-199 over 200 families can be served in a single day! The PMEHM is a food pantry that is operating with a heart of Christ in service to eradicate hungry from Pocono communities.

Who Can Help?

     Service for this mission comes from various sources ranging from corporate giants like Walmart, Shoprite and the Army Depot to local school drives. Mary beamed, “The Pocono Mountain School District does a wonderful job with local food drives.” And I couldn’t help but to agree. The Pocono West High School has thrown concerts requesting a non-perishable item as the admission fee. Coolbaugh Elementary is equally as active keeping a food donation box visible year round. With such school spirit and commitment to help others, these schools set an example of excellence for other schools to emulate. Your contribution can make a difference too! Whether it is consciously sending your child to school with a donation, attending a food fund raiser event, hosting a food drive at your place of business or simply dropping off an item to the pantry when its open all makes a huge difference in the lives of the families that need this program the most.  Today, I was blessed to gain this interview due to my son volunteering his service to Coach Stern during basketball registrations. Coach didn’t remember my commitment to also honor his good work by sharing this ministry with all of you. Perhaps one of the most meaningful ways you can get involved is to get in service! Volunteer to serve, pack or assist with another portion of the pantry. I do not believe that I would be incorrect to suggest monetary donations are also always welcomed. 

     I’d like to take this time to thank Mike and Mary for allowing me to come in and nose around even though they were extremely busy and not expecting me. I thank Coach for allowing my son an opportunity to be in service to his community. I thank the many lovely volunteers like Katie, Miss Patricia, Joe, Tanisha and Chris who graced me with photos, kindness and smiles and I thank the young volunteers and Boy Scout troops that give up their Saturday to be in godly service; this article is dedicated to each and every one of you! I especially thank God, for His Son Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of love and servitude that we will live our lives to exemplify his glory forever and ever.