A servant is a person who performs duties for others, a devoted and helpful follower or supporter and/or a tireless servant of God. Those definitions perfectly describe Pastor J.R. and Rhonda Wells of The King’s Kettle Food Pantry.
J.R. and Rhonda have run the food pantry and Jesus Loves You Ministries Inc. for nearly 30 years, and after much prayer and consideration, the couple decided it was time for them to retire, and pass the food distribution to other faithful community servants.
J.R. and Rhonda opened The King’s Kettle Food Pantry 29 years ago, with just one cupboard full of cereal and huge hearts. A need they longed to fill in the community so many years ago has grown into a ministry that has helped thousands of families and individuals in need of a hand up, a word of encouragement and bags and boxes of love.
“This was not an easy decision for us by any means, but something we have been praying about for the last two years, knowing that God would lead us in the direction that he would have us take on this next road in our lives,” Rhonda explained. “We started talking about closing the pantry in 2019, but decided to stick things out for one more year, and then the pandemic hit. We decided in the midst of the pandemic that it wasn’t the time to close, so we kept it going in 2020.”
She said they had been approached with the idea of selling the building last year, and in August of this year, they received an offer. Days after receiving the offer, J.R. had found a prayer in his Bible that he had written to the Lord dated Aug. 31 2020, asking for guidance in what to do about the pantry. “When he showed me the prayer, we were convinced that everything that had happened up to this point was an answer to his prayer,” Rhonda said. “Shortly after showing me his original prayer, he and the gentleman who made us the offer shook hands, and everything has fallen into place since that time.”
Not only was J.R.’s prayer answered in the form of an offer being given, but shortly after that, J.R. told Rhonda about a conversation he and the owners of the warehouse had just a few days earlier. “We have 90 days in which to renew the lease at the warehouse, J.R. said, and the rent is going to increase by 2 percent.”
She asked J.R. if they had given him any kind of written notice, and he handed her a letter that noted the new lease would automatically renew on Nov. 1, which was a few days away.
“Needless to say, we didn’t have much time, and I said to J.R., ‘Thank God you showed me this!’”
Rhonda drafted a letter to let the owners know they would be vacating the space, and thanked God for another answered prayer.
The last distribution date at King’s Kettle will be Tuesday, Dec. 21. The Wells have until March to empty the building on North Fayette Street, and plans are to have the warehouse emptied by March or April.
“I’m sure they’ll let us stay and pay rent until we have everything cleared out, unless someone else rents the building. If that happens, we’ll make sure we have everything cleared out so the next tenant can use the space,” Rhonda added.
“Shippensburg Produce & Outreach (SPO) on South Penn Street will help carry the load after Dec. 21,” Rhonda noted.
In addition, she said there will no longer be a donation box at the pantry after Dec. 14, and no further donations will be accepted.
However, if someone, or an organization steps up to the plate and wants to organize a food pantry based on community food donations, she would welcome the idea and help get them pointed in the right direction.
SPO has a lot to deal with regarding their regular distribution, so adding food drive items becomes quite labor intensive and they don’t have the time or the staff to handle the volume right now.
Rhonda explained that if all goes well, she and J.R. plan to distribute the remaining food drive items they have acquired in the past few months to Shippensburg Area School District clients once a month at the warehouse until gone; this will be determined on a monthly basis, depending on supply.
“We have a lot of stuff to transfer over to SPO,” Rhonda noted. “But, once this happens, individuals and families who visited the food pantry once a month will now be able to go to SPO and have the same services in place. Basically, we’re turning everything over to SPO as far as the distribution and handling the day-to-day operations of the food pantry, which technically they are already doing.”
King’s Kettle and SPO are no strangers when it comes to helping people in the Shippensburg community, nor are they strangers when it comes to working together. According to Karen DeShong of SPO, the two organizations actually started out working together, but because both entities grew and needed additional space, they grew apart in location, but never in the spirit of helping people.
“SPO continued to grow at Katie’s Place and J.R. and Rhonda continued renting the building on Fayette Street, and then eventually expanded to the adjacent building, and grew into what they are today. However, we have always kept in contact and have helped one another out through the years.”
DeShong said there is such a need in the Shippensburg area for both entities, so helping to fill in the gaps and transition to one operation is going to be a wonderful benefit for everyone served by these organizations.
“We both do the same thing as far as serving the needs of the community, and because we follow the same financial guidelines, it’s just a great fit and a wonderful opportunity to continue to reach those in need in the Shippensburg community,” DeShong added.
To help folks better understand the process and to help make this a smooth transition, everyone who visits The King’s Kettle throughout December will be given a flier explaining the process and giving them instructions on what to do in January. “We want to make this transition as smooth as possible, and by giving our patrons the information they need for the upcoming months, we think this will help a great deal,” Rhonda said. “Will there be bumps in the road and a little confusion at first, yes, but once everyone understands the process and SPO has an opportunity to meet and work with everyone, we think it will be a wonderful opportunity for SPO to continue their good works and help serve the needs of those who have become so near and dear to our heart, as well.”
J.R. and Rhonda wish to express their sincere appreciation for all of the love and support they have received over the last 29 years. They will truly miss seeing everyone and working with the community at large. Both encourage anyone wishing to make monetary donations, to do so to SPO to help them continue their service to the community.
Donations may be sent to SPO at 130 S. Penn St., Shippensburg, Pa. 17257, or via their website at: www.shipout.org.