Wise Area Relief Mission (WARM) in Decatur is one in a long list of local charities. To many, it’s simply a building on Trinity Street – the place where they donate the occasional can of food or dollar.
But to those who visit it weekly, it’s sustenance. It’s a warm smile and a prayer when needed. It’s how they feed their family.
WARM is the largest food pantry in Wise County, and they give out about 900 boxes of food per month. For the first time in many years they’re facing a budget deficit.
Board President Rick Ross, who is also minister at Decatur Church of Christ, said the pantry receives funding from United Way of Wise County, but two major donors passed away in 2012. The pantry could be in a budget crunch in 2013 without additional help.
The deficit is $20,000.
Ross said it is a testament to the people of Wise County and their generosity that the pantry has operated without a loss until now, especially considering the recession in recent years.
The pantry opened in 1998 and “mushroomed far beyond anyone’s expectations,” said Director Ren Ashmore.
From 2010 to 2012, WARM served 2,350 to 2,400 unique households, which likely translates to 9,400 to 9,600 individuals if there were at least four people per household.
Ashmore said they have seen an increase in recent months of families that hadn’t been to the pantry in four or five years returning for assistance.
Families are allowed to get a box of food every 30 days, and it could include rice, pasta, corn, green beans, cereal, beef, chicken, soups, tuna, peanut butter and snacks.
Ashmore said they also include frozen meats, vegetables and dairy products when available. The boxes comes in two sizes. A small box is for a family of one to four people, and a large box is for a family of five to eight.
Last year WARM spent $231,407.92 at Tarrant Area Food Bank and an additional $14,550 on other food purchases, including Thanksgiving turkeys. Ashmore said they are able to buy food from the Tarrant Area Food Bank at a reduced cost of 66 cents per pound – which means a donated dollar goes farther than if you buy food and donate it.
WARM received $150,082 in donations in 2012. That included 181,148 pounds of food donated by Wal-Mart and 68,989 pounds of food and personal items donated by individuals, schools and churches.
WARM also offers financial assistance with utility bills and has emergency prescription assistance. In 2012, WARM distributed $85,508 for utility bills and $14,080 for approved prescriptions, plus $4,081 in dental care expenses.
Ashmore said they also offer spiritual support if desired.
“We’re a faith-based organization,” she said. “We will pray with and for you.”
Ross offered an amen. “We do want people to know this is done in the name of Jesus.”
Ross and Ashmore expressed deep appreciation for the citizens of Wise County who have donated money and food and organized food drives year after year, as well as for the many volunteers who donate their time.
“The community is amazing, and I’ve never been in one quite like it,” said Ross.
They hope the community will pull together once again and help fill a financial void.
WARM is located at 300 N Trinity St. in Decatur. Pantry hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Call 940-626-4676 for more information.