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First Year Reflection from the Albany Synod Fellow

Written by: Rev. Trey Tirpak

The most significant win I have been part of here at First has been the revitalization of the food pantry. In the late Fall of last year, the First Church Food Pantry started to re-imagine how we might “reopen” in new and better ways out of the pandemic. “Radical generosity” was the phrase coined by our senior minister, which I and volunteers then ran with.

Seeking to be radically generous, we decided to move from primarily giving cans and supplementary food items to primarily giving high-quality, fresh produce and meats, as well as cooking supplies like oil and sugar and even spices. We want guests to be able to make many meals for themselves and their families, all while trying to lower their grocery bill as much as we can. We also decided to regularly give personal items like feminine products, adult underwear, toiletries, laundry detergent, and cold-weather clothing. There’s even a “free shopping” experience in our chapel where guests are encouraged to take all that they need from the shelves. We used to give close to 9 meals per monthly visit, and now we’re giving close to 24 meals per monthly visit. We now give out thousands of pounds of goods to our neighbors a month, all without increasing our budget.

Equally important to our neighbors being blessed is that there has been a shift in the culture of volunteers at the pantry; radical generosity has changed us. We know that we can’t provide everything our neighbors need, but we can be radical with what we can give. That’s a win-win in my book.

I’m very grateful for this program, and I’m looking forward to the remaining time I have left.

Photo at top: Rev. Trey Tirpak teaching the children about communion on Easter Sunday 2021

Photos at bottom: First Church Preparing Thanksgiving Baskets for the Pantry

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