PITTSBURG — During it’s open house Wednesday, Wesley House dedicated a new food procurement van “The Ellie,” to late Ellie Foster who was a past executive director and pastor.

The open house highlighted the work staff, volunteers and donors who have helped reduce the number of underserved and underemployed in Crawford County over the past few years.

Foster was an executive director and pastor at Wesley House for ten years.

“To know her was to love her,” Wesley House Executive Director and Pastor Marcee Binder said. “She had dreams for the Wesley House.

“It was a great loss for all of us.”

Tearfully, Binder spoke about Foster in front of a crowd before the ribbon cutting for “The Ellie.”

“Ellie Foster was a person you don’t meet very often,” she said. “One of her biggest dreams was to get a people mover — we got ‘The Max.’”

“It is only natural to name it [food procurement van] ‘The Ellie,’”

“The Max” is another van used to transport people.

Binder referred to when Wesley House Food Procurement Officer Allen Childers gave a tour of the new van and said he wished he met Foster.

“He said he felt like a piece of her is with him when he’s on the road,” she said.

Binder agreed with his statement.

“I guarantee she’s there,” Binder said. “With a crazy hat and laughing all the way.”

According to Childers, the van has made transporting bulk amounts of food easier — less trips back and forth — and is reliable for long distance pick-ups. Childers also said it has Bluetooth, so if he receives a call from a store while on the road he can safely answer and add them to his route.

Binder said they have dreams to convert the van into an “on the go” food truck — something she said could be useful during emergencies.

According to Binder and Childers, from January to June they estimated a total of 100,000 pounds of food have been brought to the Wesley House — the van will help make the number larger they said.

The Wesley House has connections with grocery stores through the Feeding America Network. Services such as Wesley House, can pick up food the store plans to throw away — this food is called rescued food. The food is not expired, it is food taken off the market and used before the expiration date. Food that the stores deem “not as pretty,” but completely edible is also rescued from the trash bin.

Other Progress

In addition to the food van, Wesley House added new programs, which Binder said are to empower its clients.

A day shelter was made to give the homeless a place to shower, do laundry and eat.

Lockers were donated to the Wesley House for the homeless to keep their belongings while they go to interviews and other business and new doors with handicapped accessibility make it possible for all clients to enter the building.

The food pantry has a program called Modified Client Choice, which a menu is provided so clients can chose their own meal.

Binder said the menu options give them power to choose, both allowing for personal tastes and dietary concerns.  

“You should have power of what you decide to feed yourself and family,” Binder said.  

A vegetable and herb garden was made in May to help point the way to health and nutrition on a minimal budget.

The Wesley House ID program has been assisting people in getting birth certificates, identification cards and driver’s licenses this past year. The program helps gather information needed to get new ID cards and birth certificates and provides transportation to the DMV and the Social Security Office.

Educational programs for adults and youth such as, Bring Your A Game to Work focus on developing a work ethic and the soft skills employers are looking for — including professionalism, relational skills, conflict resolution and a willingness to take direction.

Wesley House Family Stability Case Manager Lou Ann Colyer said it focuses on seven foundational work ethic behaviors: attitude, attendance, appearance, ambition, accountability, acceptance and appreciation.

The Next Step program for single fathers is another educational service Wesley House began providing this year.

Wesley House Program Coordinator for Connections to Success Jamie Canada said the program teaches single fathers how to nurture relationships with their children, partners and work. It also provides credit toward state back pay child support up to $2,400 if they complete the course.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.