At Jamestown Apartments in Seymour, there is a sense of community far beyond sharing the same living space.
Neighbors know each other and look out for each other. Maintenance staff and other employees become like family.
That sense of belonging and caring are values the Gene B. Glick Co. fosters in all of the properties it manages, but in Seymour, it’s taking on an even bigger role.
In addition to providing a nice, safe and affordable place for low-income seniors and families to live, Jamestown is going to begin feeding those who struggle to put food on their tables.
Beginning in May, the apartment complex is opening up its own food pantry twice a month to serve its residents and seniors age 55 and older in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Michele Yerges, site coordinator, said the idea for having a food pantry at Jamestown has been in her mind for quite some time. She has worked at the property on the southeast side of the city for nine years.
“It was something that I talked to Gleaners about years and years ago,” she said.
Based in Indianapolis, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana supplies food to agencies and schools in 21 Hoosier counties, including Jackson, that are working to address hunger and food insecurity at the local level.
Yerges said the closing of the Human Services Inc. food pantry, which was right across the street from Jamestown, in 2017 and the relocation of the Seymour Harvest Church food pantry to outside city limits put a strain on residents’ ability to utilize those services.
“Most of the people here use food pantries,” she said. “Transportation is an issue for many, so it makes the situation even more difficult.”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Yerges decided it was time to put the idea of a food pantry into action and make it happen.
She saw food insecurity become an even bigger problem as a result of people staying home and experiencing a loss of income from working fewer hours or losing their jobs altogether.
In planning for the food pantry, Yerges said it was decided to extend their reach and impact beyond Jamestown, which has 150 apartments and between 200 and 250 residents.
Although the main priority and goal is to serve those residents, Yerges is looking to open the pantry up once or twice a month to the public to serve seniors age 55 and older, especially those who were frequent visitors to Seymour Harvest Church.
In fact, Yerges is partnering with the church to share resources for both pantries.
“We thought about the fact that there is another senior living community right across the street,” she said referring to Oak Hill Apartments and Village Apartments II. “We are bound to have a lot of people.”
The Jamestown pantry, which will be located in office space in Building 2, also will be available to anyone in an emergency or crisis situation as a one-time service, regardless of where they live, their age or income level, Yerges said.
Although Gleaners will be supplying a lot of the food, donations from the community also are needed. Any financial donations can be made to Seymour Harvest Church and designated in support of the Jamestown Food Pantry.
Donations of food or toiletry items can be dropped off at the Jamestown Apartments office during regular business hours.
Yerges said most food pantries don’t stock needed items other than food. She wants to be able to offer things like first aid supplies and some over-the-counter medical products, lotions, bath and body products and personal care items such as Depends.
Right now, the shelves Yerges purchased out of her supply budget are bare. So is the refrigerator that was donated by Glick. But she hopes that changes in the coming weeks as they get their first delivery from Gleaners.
“We have a second refrigerator coming, and we also have a stand-up freezer coming,” she said.
That equipment allows the pantry to accept donations of frozen meat from hunters and farmers.
Besides the food pantry, Yerges has plans to resume community meals at Jamestown with added support from Gleaners and will be opening them up to the public, too.
“We used to do that twice a week before COVID,” she said. “We would come together for a breakfast or brunch and then again for a lunch or dinner potluck.”
Those meals have been well attended by Jamestown residents in the past, and Yerges said by opening it up to the public, she hopes even more people come to eat and socialize.
Community service and philanthropy is an important aspect of working at Jamestown, and recently, Yerges and longtime property manager Myra Mellencamp won an award from the Glick Foundation for their efforts. That award was a total of $5,000 to be split between two local charities. They chose Seymour Harvest Church and The Salvation Army of Jackson County.
“We have a lot of resources like that through Glick,” she said. “Glick is very philanthropic.”
Another partner Yerges is working with is Purdue Extension Jackson County to help educate residents more about nutrition and trying new and healthier foods through onsite food demonstrations.
To support health and wellness, Jamestown also is getting ready to start its own vegetable and herb garden on the property, which will be used to help stock the pantry with fresh and canned produce and to provide ingredients for the community meals, Yerges said.
Another skill Yerges has been teaching tenants is how to make their own household cleaning spray, laundry detergent, toothpaste and even dog food from all natural ingredients like the herbs that will grow in the garden.
“It’s a lot cheaper, it goes a lot farther and it’s healthier for you,” she said.
It also cuts down on the amount of waste we are putting into our environment, she added.
Extra amounts they make of these products will be kept stocked in the pantry for residents and the community along with the recipe for people to be able to make it on their own.
To run the pantry, Yerges is relying on volunteers. She sent out a letter to residents, and three stepped up right away to help: Randi and Tina Pearson and Gloria “Jean” Robinson.
The three have remained involved with Yerges’ virtual programming throughout the pandemic.
“They are so good about attending everything we do and are always so great about helping me out,” she said.
Yerges is hoping people from the community will want to do the same and volunteer.
The Pearsons and Robinson agree they just like helping out and being nice to others.
All three have knowledge and experience of how food pantries work. The Pearsons have volunteered with The Alley Kitchen and at church events in the past, and Robinson has helped with the senior pantry in Brownstown and helped deliver free gallons of milk that were being given away by Prairie Farms during the pandemic.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Tina Pearson said of starting the pantry. “There are a lot of people that live here that don’t have transportation. I’m one of them.”
She applauded Yerges’ efforts during the pandemic to stay connected to the residents so they weren’t isolated.
“Doing this is really fantastic,” Tina said.
For Randi, helping start the pantry and volunteering when it opens is a way to help her neighbors.
“I’ve used food pantries in the past,” she said. “So I want to pay it back and pay it forward.”
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Anyone wanting to support the Jamestown Food Pantry through financial or food donations or who would like to volunteer at the pantry can call Michele Yerges at 812-680-4336 or email her at [email protected].