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Bertram Food Pantry extends hours

Bertram Food Pantry

The Bertram Food Pantry crew of Jane Scheidler (left), Felice Hursh, Silvia Reyes, Terri Locke, and Janet Widmer make sure residents get the food they need with the dignity they deserve. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

The Bertram Food Pantry has added evening hours to better serve the community, and organizers are hosting a celebration to let people know.

UPDATE: An open house for the pantry, 520 Texas 29 East in Bertram, is 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, May 27, and includes music, refreshments, and games. (Editor’s note: It was originally scheduled for May 20 but postponed due to bad weather in the forecast.)

“I don’t know what happened, but our (client) numbers have gone down, so we just want to remind people that we’re here,” said the pantry’s Janet Widmer. “And that we’re here to help.”

The food pantry’s hours are 1-3 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m. Thursdays. Initially, the facility was only open in the mid-afternoon, but Widmer said many clients couldn’t get to the pantry during the day.

“A lot of people are working,” she said. “Or, they’re a one-car family.” 

The pantry serves residents in the Bertram and Briggs ZIP codes of 78605 and 78608. That includes a wide expanse of land and people. 

The pantry is small by some standards, but staff and volunteers make up for that with their caring hearts. Volunteer Jane Scheidler pointed out that they don’t just box items for clients. 

“You know, they may not want or need some of the things in (the box),” she said. “We let them go ‘shopping.’” 

A volunteer actually takes the food from the shelves and places it in a bag or box for the client, but the person gets to pick what they need. 

“We really try to help preserve their dignity,” Widmer said. 

Bertram Food Pantry
Bertram Food Pantry’s Silvia Reyes tends to the vegetable garden outside of the facility where the pantry grows fresh produce for its clients. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

She noted that the people the pantry helps often return the gesture when they can. She recalled one man who came in on a regular basis, always with a smile and a joke. He used a wheelchair for most of his trips, but one day, Widmer heard a knock on the door. When she opened it, there he stood leaning on a cane — no wheelchair.

The man returned several times, often with donations for the pantry.

“That’s what we’re here for, for people like him,” Widmer said. 

The crew does more than wait for people to show up at the pantry. During the February winter storms, a snowbound mother with several children reached out via Facebook to see if anyone had baby formula and diapers. She couldn’t get out to get any.

Widmer’s husband traversed the icy weather to the pantry, grabbed baby formula and diapers, and delivered them to the woman.

Along with providing canned and non-perishable food items, the pantry started growing fresh vegetables last year in a small garden adjacent to the facility.

The pantry is located behind Holy Cross Catholic Church in Bertram. Check the Bertram Food Pantry Facebook page for updates and more information. 

daniel@thepicayune.com