Food pantry volunteers Elvera Dahl (from left), Eva Godina, Jean Getka and Dela Race and pantry operator Terry Bailey stock shelves at the pantry’s temporary location at Town Bank. (Michael S. Hoey photo)

Daughter carries on vision dad began in 1980

By Michael S. Hoey


The Harold S. Johnson Food Pantry at St. Andrew of the Apostle Church in Delavan is renovating its space to better serve its clients. The pantry is temporarily located in space provided by Town Bank between the bank and Ace Hardware on East Geneva Street.

Harold S. Johnson started the food pantry at St. Andrew in 1980 along with Bob Drefs. After Johnson’s passing, Drefs ran the pantry for about 15 years until May 2015 when Johnson’s daughter Terry Bailey and her husband were asked to take over. Bailey said if Drefs had not carried on after her father died, the pantry would most likely have closed.

Bailey said that while the space in the basement of St. Andrew was still functional, not much had been done to it since the church was built in 1890. Bailey said the space was in serious need of a facelift. She also said the renovated space will allow the pantry to better serve its clients.

The plans include a new concrete floor to replace what looked to be the original wood floor, new walls, a kitchenette, restrooms, more storage space, new shelving, and space for clients to be offered new services like blood pressure checks and job fairs. Bailey said the new space will be much cleaner and more efficient.

Bailey said the work began on New Year’s Eve day and was projected to take about four months, during which time the pantry temporarily relocated to the space provided by Town Bank.

“Town Bank has been so generous to allow us to be there,” Bailey said. “They have not charged us a dime.”

Bailey said the space has been great and one benefit for some clients has been that the space is not down a flight of stairs.

Six months into the project, the renovation has not been completed because when the new concrete floor was put in, contractors discovered the church’s foundation needed tuckpointing. Bailey said the foundation mortar was crumbling and work to repair it was scheduled for this week.

Bailey said that discovery set the project back because the church board had to discuss it, approve paying for the work, schedule the work, and then she had to reschedule the work on the pantry itself. Bailey said St. Andrew also helped pay for the new floor. The church paid $10,000, and she paid the rest. The money to pay for the renovation came from an inheritance Bailey received that was earmarked for renovating the pantry.

Bailey said her “staff” is entirely made up of 15 volunteers whom she is blessed with, and St. Andrew has been very supportive.

“Ever since Dad asked for space in 1980, it has been there,” Bailey said. “They are glad to have it and to support it, and we couldn’t do it without their support.”
“Part of the ministry of the Catholic church is to help the poor,” St. Andrew Trustee Jim Stiles said. “We have some people in the community who need help – what better way to do it.”

Stiles said the pantry has served the community well over the years because of a lot of dedicated people who have volunteered their time.

“Bob Drefs and Harold Johnson put a lot of time and effort into it,” Stiles said. “There is always someone bringing something in from the churches in the community.”

Bailey said the mission statement of the pantry is: “We are an ecumenical group of volunteers dedicated to meeting the nutritional needs of others. Through Christ’s love and the generosity of the community, we distribute food donations in a just, friendly, non-judgmental atmosphere without regard to race, color or creed.”

Bailey said she tries to treat her clients with respect like they were coming into her home, and she is excited to have the new space so she can provide an atmosphere that can give her clients a lift and make them feel it is OK to come to the pantry.

The community has always helped make that mission a reality by donating items for the pantry.

“We have so many generous supporters,” Bailey said.

Bailey said several local churches, businesses and private people donate items or money or host food drives. One example is the brown bag program at Piggly Wiggly. Customers can purchase a bag of items that gets donated to the pantry.

“We are so fortunate. It is unbelievable,” Bailey said of that support.

Bailey said the pantry’s goal is to serve the residents of the Delavan area community, but she wouldn’t turn anyone away. If someone comes in from another community, she said she would serve them and encourage them to visit the pantry in their own community in the future.

Bailey said clients are asked to provide information like household size and income to qualify to use the pantry. She also asks for identification and proof of address because, if someone is homeless, they have different needs than someone who has a home. For example, homeless clients do not have refrigerators or stoves.

Despite not having a firm timeline as a result the delays, Bailey said she is excited about the project. The hours of operation have remained the same – 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Those hours are likely to stay the same after the move back to St. Andrew, but Bailey said changes could be made to keep up with demand.


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