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RIght: Mound Evangelical Free Church opened its temporary food shelf April 16. The food shelf is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. (Submitted photo)

Mound Evangelical Free Church on Commerce Boulevard started operating its own food closet in mid-April this year, a reflection of the growing need in the area for food assistance due to the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic that has caused schools and workplaces to close over the past two months and brought many Minnesotans to the unemployment lines.

Long-held church traditions served as the foundation for the miniature food shelf, which is open to anyone who needs the help, said Gary Pettis, a longtime church member and volunteer for the church’s Compassion Ministry Team. “With all that’s going on, we said we need to open a food shelf.”

Mound Evangelical has offered Wednesday night meals for the past 12-15 years, said Pettis. The church also began offering Christmas Eve dinners around 2008 when the Great Recession took hold.

Churches remain closed as public gathering places under Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order, and those Wednesday night meals, in normal times offered every first, third and fifth Wednesday of the month, have had to come to a temporary end.

Posted to the glass door of the vestibule at Mound Evangelical is a list of the items in stock. Patrons make their orders from the list with a church volunteer who meets them at the door, said Pettis, who said this practice of doing orders rather than having people in to select items themselves limits the amount of contact between people, which is the oft-urged practice for limiting the spread of the virus.

Pettis said the church is unsure how long it will offer the service but said, too, that demand has been gaining, with just one or two patrons the first day and now averaging six or seven every day it’s open.

The food shelf at Mound Evangelical Free Church, 2117 Commerce Blvd., is open from 1-4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and is accepting donations for non-perishable food items and paper products.

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