Almost 1,600 people are looking at the possibility of not having enough food on their tables in the coming weeks. The Beacon of Hope Food Pantry in Camden County is at risk of being shut down due to lack of support.


Almost 1,600 people are looking at the possibility of not having enough food on their tables in the coming weeks. The Beacon of Hope Food Pantry in Camden County is at risk of being shut down due to lack of support.

Steven McQueen, who runs the pantry, says that it truly meets a need in the lake area. "It helps get families from one month to the next," he said.

In March 2012, the pantry recorded that it fed 1,236 individuals, most of which in Camden County. In April, 1,586 individuals received help from the pantry, all of which would be impacted if the pantry could no longer open its doors.

According to McQueen, the food pantry started as a mobile service in March 2011. Now, more than a year later, the pantry sits on Runabout Drive and is open every Tuesday from 9 a.m. until  4 p.m. for those in need. Families must apply for the help, but McQueen said that no one is ever denied food.

The Beacon of Hope is affiliated with the Central Missouri Food Bank and has been since the mobile service started in 2011. The Beacon of Hope opened its own "bricks and mortar" pantry in January of 2012. According to the Central Missouri Food Bank's records, the food pantry serves about an average of 552 households.

The Beacon of Hope Food Pantry runs solely from donations and without more support, it will not be able to meet the needs of countless families in a total of fourteen counties. According to McQueen, the pantry recently attempted to apply for a Neighborhood Assistance Program Grant. If they would have received the grant, it would allow the Beacon of Hope to purchase the building they are currently in and expand their facilities to further meet the needs of the people they serve.

In order to apply for the grant, McQueen needed letters of support from city administrators and county commissioners. The letters simply needed to state that the Beacon of Hope Food Pantry helps the community and meets a need in the area. McQueen said that he contacted one Camden County commissioner, Kris Franken, through an email simply asking for support. According to McQueen, the commissioner told him that he would speak to the other commissioners and get back with him. At the time of this article, McQueen had yet to receive a letter of support. McQueen also noted that the deadline to apply for the grant had just passed.

When asked about why no letter was sent, Franken said that he had only had the request since May 7 and had not had adequate time to review the request.

"We do not have consensus between commissioners at this time." Franken also called the request "incomplete" and said he did not know enough about the food pantry. The commissioners also were unaware of a deadline for the grant. "The email never indicated a deadline," said Franken.

McQueen did not stop there. He then contacted the Osage Beach city administrator, Nancy Viselli. After receiving an email from McQueen about what he needed, she responded, "The city would prefer to wait until you have opened your food pantry for at least a year and we can see data about the people you have served before we can write a letter of support."

McQueen said that he responded and told the administrator that they have been opened for over a year and included data with numbers showing how many people have been helped by the Beacon of Hope.

When asked about this situation, Viselli told the Lake Sun that McQueen did reach out to her via email. She confirmed her response, but denied receiving anything else from McQueen. She also questioned the validity that the food pantry had actually been open for over a year.

"I have no idea why," McQueen said referring to the lack of support from Camden County and the city of Osage Beach. "I hope that our city administration and commissioners do not prevent us from going on."
If the Beacon of Hope’s doors do close, "It's going to affect a lot of people," said McQueen as he sat at the Beacon of Hope facility for what could be the last food delivery from the Central Missouri Food Bank. "We just have to save the facility so we can continue doing what we do."

Without a facility, there will be no Beacon of Hope. Without Beacon of Hope,  hundreds of families will not receive the food and assistance they need. One Miller County resident has been receiving help from the Beacon of Hope for a while, "It has been a great help to us," she said.

This resident only brings home about $300 a month and finds it hard to make ends meet without the food pantry's help. "If I did not have  their help, things would be slim." She also said that in order to help others around her, she sometimes shares the food she receives from the Beacon of Hope. If the pantry ends up closing, she says "it will be hard for several people around here because money is so tight right now."

Two volunteers who actually receive food from the food pantry expressed their concerns with the possibility of it having to shut down. "I'm a hard worker, but I still need a little bit of help," one said. If the pantry closes down, this individual would have to drive a further distance to get to another food pantry, therefore causing him to pay more in gas.

"It would really make things inconvenient," he said. This man has been coming to the food pantry since it was mobile, 15 months ago, and is grateful for its services since it helps not only his immediate family but many other family members, as well.

Another man was also present for the food delivery. He volunteers and receives food for his family of four. He has had to maintain two jobs just to get by and yet at the end of each month, he hardly has any money left for food. "It really helps out a lot," he said of the Beacon of Hope. When asked why he takes time to volunteer, he simply said, "Give a little to get a little."

McQueen urges residents and city and county officials to "not turn a blind eye to those in need in Camden County." McQueen said that there are other food pantries in the area, but not one as centrally located as the Beacon of Hope. For a full list of food pantries in the area, one can visit sharegoodbringhope.org/agency-listing.

Even with the potential end to the Beacon of Hope Food Pantry and its various other programs looming above his head, McQueen stays optimistic, "If this door does close, I believe God has a window open somewhere else for us."

For more information about Beacon of Hope or how to support the Food Pantry, call Steven McQueen at 552-1309.