RE:center stepping up to fill a need

The RE:center, an outreach of the Church, has offered soup and food boxes for those in need for quite some time, but now, seeking to help fill the gap left by the recent closure of the Love Kitchen, they are looking for community assistance.

PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Even if you are not sure what it is, the RE:center, an outreach of the Church, is highly visible and has been answering needs in the community for quite some time. Most recently, with the closing of the Love Kitchen, they garnered forces in a miracle-like fashion to fill empty stomachs.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the RE:center partnered with a number of entities, and with the help of the Navapache Feeding Collaborative and other agencies, they distributed 2,000 cups of fresh, homemade soup; 126,000 pounds of fresh potatoes; 44,000 pounds of canned and dry goods; 150 food boxes and 75 hygiene packs for quarantined Tribal families; 6,413 handmade masks; 11,000 meals for Blue Ridge Unified School District (BRUSD) students; 16,040 produce boxes and 10,000 pounds of pet food.

According to RE:center’s Executive Director Pam Williams, “After the COVID-19 crisis slowed down, we realized feeding our community needed to be a core effort of our organization. So, the RE:center became a United Food Bank site in January of 2021. On a smaller scale, the RE:center also offered easy hot meals like soup for hungry clients or those without kitchens.”

Like many who learned of the Love Kitchen’s closure, RE:center, less than a mile away from the Love Kitchen, began strategizing as to how they could expand their current feeding program to accommodate those who had previously been served by the Love Kitchen.

With a functioning kitchen, and the ability to already seat 100 people, Williams said they felt they were in a good position to fill the gap.

Their food bank is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on those days they offer a hot lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They also still provide a simple hot dog meal throughout the day for their clients.

“But, we don’t want to stop there. Our team decided to get creative with meeting this need. We are pleased to announce Operation Hot Potato. Our potato-focused café will serve themed baked potato bars to create a unique experience for our clients. Going above and beyond the traditional food bank meals, the RE:center desires to serve our community with excellence,” stated Williams.

The RE:center came up with the idea but now they need increased community support in order to be able to implement their expansion plan.

Their current needs include a commercial walk-in freezer; a pallet jack; financial support to purchase food; and volunteers to prep and serve the meals.

“Unfortunately, with our contract with United Food Bank, we are unable to take food donations of any kind. We can, however, take donations of money to go towards the purchase of food,” stated Program Director Devin Dillinger.

Safeway has already reached out to the RE:center requesting them to be their partner in their annual holiday program known as Holiday Bucks. Safeway customers purchase Holiday Buck gift cards to support local families in need so they are able to have a delicious holiday meal. RE:center will be the beneficiary of those bucks.

“We are blessed to serve the community in this capacity,” stated Williams.

Anyone who would like to partner with the RE:center regarding their food outreach ministry may contact them at 928-457-1707. The RE:center also has a Facebook page where they will post updates. Financial inquiries should be directed to Daniella Padilla at danielle@rcaz.us and volunteer opportunities to Dillinger at devin@rcaz.us.

The RE:center is located at 814 E. White Mountain Blvd., Pinetop-Lakeside.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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