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Paintsville food bank finds help it needs to expand

PAINTSVILLE — The First Church of God food bank has outgrown its home during the past few years with the help of an assortment of volunteers, donors and, says pastor Dan Heaberlin, small miracles.

The church board decided when Heaberlin became pastor in 2002 that it should be using its facility more than three hours a week.

"That didn't seem like good stewardship of the building," Heaberlin said. The church decided that if it could help 10 families a month with a few groceries, it would be doing a good job. About that time, God's Pantry, the statewide food bank, lost funding for its mobile pantry in Johnson County, Heaberlin said, so a food bank was needed.

"By the time we got going it was 10 families a week," the pastor said, and now the church averages 70 a week.

On Tuesday, 110 families came through the church doors, including 13 first-timers, volunteers said. Numbers have been up in hard times, as some families who never thought they would need free food experience job layoffs, volunteers said.

Volunteers don't all come from the church. There's the doctor's wife who saw an announcement in her own church's bulletin. There's the Young Democrats organizer who wants to give back. There's the mechanic on court-ordered community service. There's the retired social worker who still has it in her to help people.

Every Tuesday, they come together to sort, stack, smile and welcome the dozens of needy people who crowd Eighth Street in Paintsville with cars and shopping carts.

After years of hallways filled with stacks of canned goods and doors banged up by shopping carts, the church has started building an addition to house the food bank.

The tiny church had about $18,000 in the bank and knew it would need $21,000 to buy the starter kit for the metal building. The board prayerfully committed to the building, and within five days had been offered a discount on the building, received a one-time donation of $8,000 and a pledge of $10,000 — doubling the $18,000 it had planned to spend, Heaberlin said.

"We knew it was a God thing about that time," he said.