The Caring Cupboard

‘If you need a helping hand, it is there for you’

Avalynn Counterman and her sister, Annalisa, check on the contents of the Caring Cupboard at Trinity Lutheran Church, 408 N. Sixth St. The church installed the cupboard — open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — to help community members in need.

There’s a small cupboard located on the front of a Juniata church that is filled with food items — all for free, no questions asked.

The outreach of Trinity Lutheran Church, 408 N. Sixth St., isn’t meant to replace the local food banks, but to help people who might find themselves in a sudden bind.

Because “other people might not have anything to eat,” Adam Counterman and his daughters, Annalisa and Avalynn — with the church’s blessing — built a caring cupboard — open day and night for anyone in need.

It was Avalynn, who turns 7 in July, who said the cupboard is for people who are hungry but don’t have anything to eat. She and her sister, Annalisa, 5, enjoy checking on the cupboard with their dad and mom, Angela, to see if more items need to be added, Adam said.

The idea to create the cupboard came from Counterman, who through his work with Norfolk Southern sometimes finds himself out of town on a Sunday and attending church elsewhere.

He’s attended services at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Shiremanstown, a church that installed a small 24-hour pantry for anyone in need.

“It’s been a big hit,” he said, noting that it did take some time before it really took off, but now it is used regularly — by anyone, as there are no signups and no one knows who takes items, or oftentimes who drops off items for others. He also got ideas and the name for the local cupboard from The Caring Cupboard food bank in Palmyra.

“I really liked that name,” he said, noting it pretty much says it all … the food is there for anyone in need because the community cares.

“All they need is silverware,” Avalynn said, but a quick glance in the cupboard shows that someone already thought of that and dropped off a few bundles of plasticware.

Other items include Annalisa’s favorite, canned sweet potatoes, and Avalynn’s macaroni and cheese. But there is also soup, beans and even juice.

After seeing the success of the Shiremanstown cupboard, Counterman said he thought having one at his home church would be a way to reach out to people in the community who might need a little help.

He approached the church council, which unanimously approved the idea.

After that, Counterman and his daughters got to work. “They don’t just stand and watch,” Counterman said, proudly explaining that the girls get dirty and enjoy helping him in his garage workshop.

Once the cupboard was built and installed, ” a lot of people brought stuff” to stock the shelves. The way it is set up, with magnetic latches and along North Sixth Street, anyone can stop to either pick up items or drop items off.

One of the benefits is that no one knows who is getting the food, and it doesn’t matter if someone takes it all.

“Someone did ask, ‘What if someone takes all the food?'” Counterman said. “If they need it, that’s OK,” he replied.

And if anyone goes by and sees the shelves are a little low on food, they are welcome to add items. They do ask, however, that all items be non-perishable. No glass containers are accepted. The cupboard can even include personal care items.

“If someone has a bad week,” the cupboard is there to help, Counterman said. “I remember living paycheck to paycheck … this is something to help.”

Counterman said, “In the book of James, we are reminded that ‘faith without works is dead.'”

Pastor Elizabeth Hess agrees.

“We are called to serve our neighbor and care about the community at large. The Caring Cupboard is a way that we can do this here at Trinity,” she said.

Hess said to reach people with the gospel, first you have to take care of their basic needs.

“There are a lot of hungry people in our community and that is one need that we can help with through the Caring Cupboard,” Hess said, adding that she likes that it is open to all members of the community at any time day or night.

“Hunger doesn’t come on a schedule and sometimes the food banks and other community resources are closed. This is a way for people to get a meal to hold them over until they can get substantial help,” she said.

It also comes without judgement.

“If you need a helping hand, it is there for you,” she said.

“Our basic mission here at Trinity is based on Mark 12:28-31, Love God, Love others. The Caring Cupboard is one way we live that mission in our community.”

The congregation of Trinity Lutheran hopes the ministry will be an ongoing service that grows, Counterman and Hess said. It is also hoped that the Juniata community will come to embrace and help sustain it, Hess added.