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Food pantry cofounder speaks to Gravette Lions Club

by Susan Holland | October 19, 2021 at 8:31 a.m.
Photo by Jeff Davis Harris Steele, cofounder of Outreach 58:10 food pantry in Sulphur Springs, speaks to members and guests at the Oct. 5 meeting of the Gravette Lions Club. Steele told the Lions about the services it offers and shared some future plans for the pantry, which will soon begin constructing a new building on donated land near the present location.

GRAVETTE -- Harris Steele, cofounder of Outreach 58:10 Food Pantry, was the guest speaker at the Oct. 6 regular meeting of the Gravette Lions Club. Steele expressed appreciation for the Lions Club's support of the pantry, which has operated in Sulphur Springs for about two years.

Steele explained that the pantry formerly operated as Share the Harvest food pantry for seven years at Harvest Baptist Church in Gravette. When the church decided to discontinue the service, he and his daughter, Haidee Larsen, decided to take it over and move it to Sulphur Springs since 80% of the patrons served were from there. The city has provided a location for the pantry for two years.

Outreach 58:10 food pantry operated a drive-up service during the height of the covid pandemic. Steele said up to 120 cars were served in about 2 1/2 hours. Although business has slowed now, it still sees quite a bit of traffic. Visitors are given boxes of food filled with pantry items, including donations from area organizations and individuals. Families are given a box for each three persons in the family and also receive a monthly box of commodities from the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.

The pantry has been operating in a 4,000 square foot area in the old school gymnasium. Steele said Shiloh Trust has recently donated 2 1/2 acres of wooded land across the street south and east of the present location and he is looking forward to the opportunity to expand. JD Dirtworks will clear the site and plans are to build a 3,000 square foot metal building.

Steele said he hopes the new building, when completed, will become a community enrichment center. He would like to build some raised beds for gardening nearby and allow families to adopt a space where they can grow their own produce and possibly donate any excess to the pantry. He also hopes to have a canning station for persons to preserve some of their crops.

Outreach 58:10 food pantry is staffed entirely by volunteers. Assistance has been provided through a couple of recent grants. A $1,200 grant for shelving and food storage supplies was received and the pantry will be eligible to apply for another soon. A $24,000 grant received through the University of Arkansas food bank at Bethel Heights was to be used to buy or improve transportation so they bought a box truck to haul foodstuff.

Steele said, because patrons must meet certain income guidelines, some persons are reluctant to sign up, being somewhat embarrassed to admit they qualify. He said he tells them not to hesitate because the pantry is there to help them through their time of need and bring them around to where they can contribute to society again. Several of the patrons give back by working at the pantry each week.

There is definitely a need for food assistance in the Sulphur Springs area, as Steele said 90% of the children in town are eligible for the school's free or reduced-price lunch program. He says he is happy to help.

"I'm amazed," he said. "We're giving away a lot of food. And we're receiving a lot of help. We've always had enough to meet the need. We're very fortunate in northwest Arkansas. People who are in need couldn't be in a better part of the country."

The pantry is open every Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the old school gymnasium in Sulphur Springs.

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