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Grand Forks food pantry finds new home in Hope Church

Rosie Solomon, left, assists Linda Bergstrom in April at the Store House Food Pantry north of Grand Forks. The food pantry will reopen after July 1 in Hope Church. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

A Grand Forks food pantry that closed almost a month ago has a new home, and the church that will house it hopes to use the opportunity to help those in need get back on their feet.

Hope Church will partner with the Store House Food Pantry to create the Hope Care Center and Food Pantry, with plans to reopen the food pantry after July 1 at the Grand Cities Mall. A celebration of the partnership will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at 1601 17th Ave. S, where the church is located.

That's also where the Store House will receive a trophy and a van for being named the Agency of the Year by the Fargo-based Great Plains Food Bank.

"As a church, we don't just want to exist for ourselves," said the Rev. Paul Knight, lead pastor at Hope Church. "We really believe God has called us to be a part of the transformation of the entire community."

The Store House was located in the First Church of God just north of Grand Forks, but that church voted earlier this year to close because of declining membership.

That left the food pantry, which had been open for 10 years, searching for a new home. Store House closed April 19.

The process of finding a place for the food pantry should have taken at least five months, said Brenda Birkholz, who manages the Store House with her husband, Roger. But that timeframe has been shortened with the help of Hope Church.

"I'm ecstatic," she said, adding God deserves credit for the partnership. "I'm really looking forward to opening again."

Knight and Jody Larson, director of congregational care for Hope Church, previously discussed opening a care center but felt Hope Church wasn't ready to take on the task. Several members of his congregation contacted Knight after reading the Herald article about the Store House closing, he said.

"We received several text messages from people in our church saying are we going to let this close," Knight said. "We just thought maybe this is God's timing."

Hope Church plans to gradually work with other organizations to offer additional services to those who need help, Knight said. That could include budgeting and tax preparation assistance.

The goal is to have the food pantry available when needed, Knight said, but the church wants to help people get to a point where they don't need to access the pantry all of the time.

"The food pantry is an amazing thing," he said. "We want to help people get a leg up as well and get on their feet."

The Store House served between 65 to 100 families once a week, Birkholz said. Those who accessed the food pantry said they were treated with care and dignity.

Birkholz said she wanted to make sure everyone she served was treated like family, a mission Hope Church wants to help with as well, Knight said.

"The hope for us is to carry on that same heartbeat," he said, adding the community wants to make a difference.

The days when the food pantry will be open will be decided at a later date.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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