Care and Hope Ministry is a local nonprofit organization that feeds over 500 families every month in Morehouse Parish and includes several outreaches.

Founder Pam Walker said the food ministry is the primary ministry of Care and Hope, but the thrift store is also an important branch of operation.

"The thrift store works to support the food ministry," she said. "We have partnered with the USDA locally through the food bank in Monroe."

Walker said the ministry started in 2010 when she was working at her church's, First Baptist Church, food closet.

"I was put in charge of the food closet," she said. "So I went to the food bank in Monroe to set up a partnership and stocked my food pantry. The need for more food locally suddenly increased in 2010 when the International Paper mill closed. More people needed food because they were jobless. God gave me the idea to open the thrift store and it began in 2012.

"Our first location was in the Magnolia Shopping Center, but we quickly grew."

The "Care" is supplying the physical need, and the "Hope" is found in Jesus Christ, Walker said.

In their first month opening, in February of 2012, Walker said they fed 34 families. Last month in May the ministry fed 531 families.

Walker said the count is actually higher than that because they never turn down a hungry person.

"The 531 families are those who have come in and already gone through the qualification process," she said. "Thirty-five percent of our families are senior adults who are on a very limited income."

Care and Hope relies on donations for the thrift store and both old and new items are welcome, she said. Volunteers and financial donations are also welcomed.

Volunteers meet three times a week at Care and Hope food pantry to distribute food, but first they begin with prayer and a word of encouragement is offered to clients.

Walker said the ministry would not be possible without the generous donations of caring individuals in the community.

"We resell clothing, furniture and household goods," she said. "The revenue from the sales allows us to purchase food for distribution to those in need as well as provide free clothing and household goods to persons in crisis. We distribute approximately 18,000-22,000 lbs. of food each month to qualified recipients. We serve our community as a Red Cross referral partner for victims of house fires and other tragedies."

Walker said Care and Hope is not the only organization where locals can find food.

"There are four other churches in Morehouse Parish that also serve the community through the food bank," she said.

All five local food pantries can be found on the Northeast Louisiana Food Bank website, www.fbnela.org, or by calling the food bank at 322-3573.