In December 1994 Dorothy Barton who was Chairperson of the Christian Unity Committee at First United Methodist Church of Smithville [FUMC] sent a letter to all Pastors of local Churches urging them to ask their congregations to donate “food goods or cash” to the local Combined Community Action [CCA] organization to help the “needy”. Rev. Sheldon Johnson of the FUMC was designated as the contact person for donations.
The FUMC bulletin for Dec. 1994 stated that the “food bank” and CCA have a freezer for wild game donated by local hunters. In April,1995 this freezer was moved from the CCA location to the FUMC kitchen. FUMC requested volunteers for “distribution of food.” This was the beginning of the Smithville Food Pantry as we know it today. Rev. Sheldon Johnson provided the leadership. In an interview with him in the summer of 2019 he said that he was inspired to start the pantry by the obvious local poverty as evidenced by the number of people that came by FUMC looking for help with utility bills, gasoline and food. This brought to his mind the Bible verse from Matthew, “for I was hungry and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink.” Jim Long of FUMC built shelves in this limited space in the kitchen for canned goods. Other early volunteers were Muriel Sanborn and Dorothy Thomas who were both members of FUMC and also members of Roving Volunteers in Christs Service [RVICS]. In the May 2, 1996 edition of the Smithville Times an article stated that the Pantry was distributing food on Wednesdays and help was needed in locating a new location and that 25-30 families were being served.
In 1996 the Pantry moved one block to the old Central Elementary Building where it occupied one room on the lower floor. Dorothy Ivins of the RVICS served as the General Manager. Lin Bullock and Grover Shade became the first men volunteers.
In 1998 Rev. Johnson moved to a Methodist Church in Brady. At this time the members of the Pantry board were Dorothy Ivins, Betty Nicholls, Dorothy Dillon, Grover Shade and Dorothy Mangene.
Central Elementary sold and another location at South Second and Lee St. was provided by the City of Smithville with Vernon Richards as Mayor. More space was needed for food Storage so the Pantry furnished materials and the RVICS provided free labor with Bob Brannan as job foreman. With this additional storage space more food could be obtained from the food bank in Austin. Angie Brannan [RVICS] joined the Pantry Board. Grover Shade, Dorothy Ivins and Betty Nicholls appeared before the City Council and requested financial support which was granted.
Betty Nicholls followed Dorothy Ivins as pantry manager. The number of families being fed continued to grow as did the number of volunteers needed to work on Wednesdays. At this time most of our volunteers were RVICS members. During Betty’s tenure the Pantry was honored as “Pantry of the Year” by the Capitol Area Food Bank and as “Organization of the Year” by the Smithville Chamber of Commerce. Peggy Walicek joined the board. Peggy was very helpful in guiding the Board through the steps to get County funding.
In 2013 Sam Martin, another strong lady leader, followed Betty as a board member and Pantry Manager. The Pantry began to get free food from H.E.B. and Walmart in La Grange two days a week. Previously H.E.B. in Bastrop was giving us free bread one day a week. Grover and Sam appeared before the Bastrop County Commissioners Court and requested financial support which was granted. Reed Morgan and Ron Jones became directors. Sam was selected by the Chamber of Commerce as “Smithville’s Outstanding Citizen” for her work at the Pantry as well as her leadership role with Community Gardens. Reed Morgan followed Grover Shade as Chairman of the Pantry Board. Grover agreed to serve another year as Treasurer having had both jobs for several years. Dennis Snyder followed Grover as Treasurer. During this period both Gary Reynolds and Brian Riewe, two local attorneys, donated their time for pantry legal work and advice.
Sam Martin announced her retirement and she was succeeded by Nancy Wilson. Nancy did an excellent job but her tenure was cut short by illness. She was temporarily succeeded by Jim Laird and then Judy Evanicky was appointed to this position. Judy is another one in the long line of hard working leaders that make the Pantry run smoothly. The need for a larger building had been discussed for several years. The decision was made to build and a site was purchased at MLK and Lee Streets.
A Building Committee was appointed by Reed Morgan with members being Dennis Snyder committee chair who was now Pantry Treasurer and Charles Keathley, Mike Kahanek and Grover Shade. Mary Ellen Keathley helped the Pantry acquire another lot at the above location. Bids for construction were secured with Meyerson Construction Company having the low bid and work was started in April 2017. The Panty opened for business in the new building on November 14, 2018. As of September 2019 the Pantry is serving an average of 106 families each Wednesday. Charles Keathley, Jimmy Trousdale, Stacy Amann, Judy Edwards and Judy Evanicky as well as other volunteers handle the inflow of food from HEB, Walmart and Central Food Bank. This requires their presence at the Pantry three mornings a week. Drivers who pick up the donated food in La Grange are Jimmy Trousdale, Stacy Amman, Mike Kahanek, Paul Todd, Joe Milner, Rock McNulty, and Skeeter Seward. On Wednesday mornings some members of this same group move the food to the distribution shelves. Another group of dedicated volunteers fill the orders and still another group carries the orders to the clients in the waiting room. Laurie Morgan is our computer expert who interviews clients and helped with our “Thank You Tours” of the new building for special donors. Other volunteers in the front office and at the front door include Mary Ellen Keathley and Joe Milner. Food is ordered from Central Texas Food Bank in Austin by Charles Keathley and Stacy Amman. RVICS Bob Fauth and Ed Enfield, get bread at HEB on Tuesdays. Cissy Donaldson, Pat Haner and Janis Flanagen go to HEB in Bastrop to get produce. Jackie Boggs, Iris Franke, Monie Midkiff, Marilyn Schoenwether and Susen McCleod hand out bread and produce to clients.
The Board of Directors is now made up of Reed Morgan, Charles and Mary Ellen Keathley, Mike Kahanek, Jimmy Trousdale, Stacy Amann, Judy Evanicky, Laurie Morgan, Grover Shade, Debbie Ross, Dennis Snyder, Dan Ellis and Willy Culberson. Two of the Board members, Dennis Snyder and Reed Morgan, have also been selected as “Outstanding Citizens of Smithville” in prior years.
Angie Brannan has prepared a list of volunteers from the RVICS  and also a list of other community volunteers  for the period 1995 to 2019. Some of these are still serving.
In 2018 volunteers Miriam and Robert Vaughn donated plants, compost and labor to landscape the Pantry alley and Jeff and Cindy Hancock and the Hancock children donated plants, labor and planted a Butterfly Garden on the South end of the building. Grover Shade donated some of the plants and installed the drip irrigation system.
A current list of volunteers is included with this history.