Pagan Food Pantry Joins Fight Against Hunger

Tuesday, July 5, 2016, 8:53 am
Rosalind Arch

“May You Never Hunger, May You Never Thirst” is the motto of Pagans In Need, an organization located in the Metro Detroit area, dedicated to serving the many diverse needs of its’ clientele. PIN recently opened a food bank in Lansing, which is filled and maintained by supporters of the organization, and is stocked with food and clothing for those who might need a little extra help.

The organization collects food for donation at various Pagan events in the area such as the Mid-Michigan Pagan Picnic and the annual Witches Ball. There have also been recent efforts to grow and donate fresh produce to the pantry in addition to the canned goods, boxed goods, and personal need items they have stocked.

The food pantry, as well as their other services, aims to provide for those who may have been turned away by other organizations due to their religious orientations. Their mission first and foremost is “To lead and engage our community in the fight against hunger”.

The charity organization is one of many that belongs to the Universal Society of Ancient Ministry: A Pagan Church directly serving the areas of Southeast Michigan. The Church was established in 2014, however “the idea had been manifesting for a very long time,” notes their CEO and high priestess Gerrybrete Leonard-Whitcomb. The idea was born from the realization that “there just isn’t a place to worship for the Pagan community,” and while she notes that, for many pagans, “the world is our temple…it does help with bringing together like minds, especially those who think they are the only ones.”

Paganism itself is a term used to describe a wide variety of traditions and beliefs. It is often described as a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion. “Paganism to us is not only an ancient ancestral religion which remains active throughout much of the world today, but we see Paganism by having a connection and reverence for nature, and are polytheistic which is one of the reasons people are drawn to this old spiritual belief,” says Leonard-Whitcomb. “Here at USOAM we try and find everyone’s path, since it will differ from one person to another.”

Pagans in Need, or PIN, was established fifteen years ago, and has been affiliated with various organizations before findings its way to the USOAM Church in 2014. Leonard-Whitcomb speaks to its inception, noting that “If you ask my father, he will tell you he started Witch in Need or (WIN) years ago because we found a need in our community to help families through rough times. And by doing so, they help forward the gift to the next family when they are able to help. This manifested into PIN.”

PIN organizes food drives and pantry days as well as other projects to service those in need in the metro Detroit areas as well as the Lansing area. Pagans in Need is an alternative to other charities with other religious backgrounds but Leonard-Whitcomb emphasizes this is “because we are looking at the greater good, not to replace these other ones.” The Universal Society of Ancient Ministry strives to be an “open-door” Church, actively reaching out and welcoming all who come to worship or seek help. “We are not exclusive to the pagan community,” says Leonard-Whitcomb, “We believe whole heartedly that humanitarianism runs deeper than religion; we try to help anyone in need that makes a reasonable request.”

Every year, the organization leads a program called “Toys for Yule”, an effort to provide assistance during the Yule and Christmas season to families with children under eleven. They collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December and distribute these toys to children in the community who otherwise might not receive any gifts. Pagans in Need also leads the annual Michigan Pagan Scholarship Fund which is open to high school seniors, undergraduates and graduate students in an effort to help young pagans achieve the academic goals they strive for.

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