Pantry Partners in Action!

Still Waters Pantry at Shepherd of the Valley Church, Simi Valley

Nancy (right) with volunteer, Traci

When Nancy Mason retired from her role as a principal in the Simi Valley School District, the last thing she expected was to take on a new and equally challenging role. But Nancy’s leadership and logistical skills, plus her long-standing involvement with the Still Water Cafe, a hot-meal site operated by the Shepherd of the Valley Church, made her the perfect person to take over when the previous director retired.

That was right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. After an initial shift to making hot meals to go, Nancy soon realized that it was too dangerous for the mostly older volunteer staff to continue. She made the difficult but necessary decision to shut down the cafe and put the health of the cafe’s volunteers and clients first. But that also meant the needs of a vulnerable, low-income population would now go unmet at a time when they needed assistance the most. The solution was to expand the service capacity of what was then a small, on-site food pantry serving just a few dozen people each month. 

Eighteen months later, with just a handful of tireless volunteers and food supplied largely by Food Share, the pantry is now serving more than 600 people in need each month, including 240 families, a third of which have young children, plus more than 160 seniors. The pantry provides a range of shelf-stable foods, plus fresh fruits and vegetables, and with the help of Food Share’s Agency Relations Manager, Pam Castro, has recently qualified as a USDA-site, meaning it can now accept and distribute dairy products and meat proteins like chicken and pork.  

“I was recently approached about going back to work as a principal,” comments Nancy. “I had to tell them that I have a whole other life now that I can’t walk away from. And while the pandemic and running the pantry have been really hard, I and everyone here have grown from doing this work.” 

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