A Carmi man who spent 43 year underground working mines in the area is now top dog above ground at a local food pantry. Keith Johnson moved to Carmi in 1994 after growing up in DuQuoin and living in Marissa to work mines. He would go on to work 9 different coal mines in 3 states and for 4 different companies. Johnson retired in May of 2015. He says he told Jim Kingery who ran the Cherry Street Baptist Church food pantry that he looked forward to helping once he was done underground.
The Cherry Street Baptist Food Pantry has been around for nearly 3 decades now.
That’s when Johnson took the lead. The food pantry has grown out of the basement as well.
On average, the Cherry Street Food Pantry alone provides for 60 – 90 households and 150 – 22 individuals. Things slowed down with the onset of the pandemic, but Johnson and the team of volunteers have evolved. He says they do still require face masks, but they are back open.
Mostly, they deal in dry goods and things that don’t expire quickly. But it is important for families to have fresh items as part of their diet as well and they do their best.
Additionally, he works hand in hand with Kay Talley from New Beginnings Church of God. They feed some 50 – 70 folks twice a week and if she needs ingredients, he passes them along to her and vice versa. Even though it’s all volunteer, Johnson says he probably spends more than 40 hours a month. The food pantry is aligned with the Tri State Food Bank which for the most part is a big help. Occasionally, it ends up biting the community in the behind as in a handful of years ago when many area schools did a canned food drive only to have those items picked up by Tri State and then sold back (at about 18 cents a can) to the local food pantries. The partnership however facilitates an agreement with Wal-Mart and Johnson says every Tuesday, they report to the loading dock for donations there. Johnson also praised everyone’s favorite local grocery store manager, John Williams, from Little Giant along with John’s employers, Ron and Sher Kingery, and also Williams brother Jim who runs Operation Now for their help proving it truly takes a community effort to take care of it’s own. Additionally, the White County University of Illinois Extension office’s 4H program helps through the Gift Garden.
The Cherry Street Food Pantry is open on the first and third Thursday of each month, typically 9am – 11am. The pantry will be open this Thursday, May 6th and also May 20th. The pantry is always welcoming interest in donations and ultimately, Johnson says
Learn more about the pantry and the church at their social media presence on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cherrystreetgeneralbaptistchurch.