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Guyandotte resident opens a food pantry in her neighborhood

Aug. 20, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- One could make the argument that Connie Miller is the poster child for perseverance.

In October 2012, the Guyandotte resident set out on a mission to open a food pantry in her neighborhood. The need, she said, was so great, particularly in Guyandotte. Yet, she couldn't find a pantry in the area that was open on a regular basis.

"I just felt it was my calling to do it," said Miller, 44. "It's something that was in my heart."

With help from her husband, Paul, Miller started looking for available space in Guyandotte to open a food pantry. After a long search that lasted into the spring, she was about to give up.

"I was sitting at a red light in my car crying one day because we had looked everywhere and hadn't found a thing," Miller said. "It was at that moment that I raised my head and saw (Guyandotte United Methodist) Church.

"The pastor called me back the next morning and showed me the upstairs of their building. They welcomed me with open arms, which made the transition rather nice. I think it was an answered prayer from God. I wanted to give up but he didn't let me."

Guyandotte United Methodist Pastor Mike Chapman said his church had plenty of empty space and was more than willing to help Miller.

"She's very enthusiastic about it and seems to respond to what God is wanting her to do," Chapman said. "It's a good ministry for the community, I think. The church has been blessed by having her here."

Setting up the operation, affectionately called the Grace Food Pantry, was another challenge. Miller had to fork money out of her own pocket to set up the pantry as a private, nonprofit organization. She also had to establish working relationships with the Huntington Area Food Bank and Information & Referral at the Cabell County Public Library.

Miller finally opened July 26 and handed out food to more than 20 people her first day. The pantry, located at 305 Main St., is now open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In the seven days that the pantry has opened its doors to the community, 273 people have received food, Miller said.

"Every day of this journey has been a blessing," she said. "As long as I'm able-bodied, I will pass out food to the needy. I've met some really good people along the way."

Miller estimates she spends about seven hours per day on her labor of love. If the pantry's not open, she's there organizing and restocking shelves or running to pick up food at the Huntington Area Food Bank.

"We still need monetary donations and nonperishable food items," Miller said. "The biggest need is money. I hate to say that, but I can stretch a dollar a lot further by purchasing from the Food Bank than what someone else can get at the grocery store."

Donations to the Grace Food Pantry can be made at the Trivantage Federal Credit Union in Guyandotte, which is located at 416 Main St.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

Connie Miller

Age: 44

Resides: Guyandotte

Family: Husband, Paul; daughter, Tara; son, Bradley

Occupation: Secretary Of Guyandotte Improvement and Historical Association; involved with Civil War Days in Guyandotte; treasurer for Neighborhood Institute of Huntington

Hobbies: food pantry; giving back to the community; spending time with four grandchildren.

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