BRADENTON -- During the Christmas holidays, Pastors Steve and Johanna Erickson and volunteers at Church Without Limits have gathered to give away food bags, clothing and household items to the needy.
Last year an estimated 1,000 people came to the nondenominational, multicultural church at 2209 75th St. W. for help.
"We saw gratitude, we saw tears," Johanna Erickson said.
They saw something else, too.
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"We saw need," she said.
So they expanded their ministry, a mission that comes to fruition when Church Without Limits, a 100-member congregation, opens its own U.S. government-sanctioned food pantry.
It will be open 4-6 p.m. every Wednesday.
"We've always done the holiday stuff and it was wonderful," Erickson said. "But we decided let's do this on a regular basis. Not once a year, but every week."
That there isn't another food pantry open on a weekly basis in their part of town was also a driving factor.
"There's a perception people in West Bradenton don't have need, but that's not true," Erickson said. "We've got single moms who don't have cars, families who are struggling, people without jobs, and we needed to reach out to this part of the com
Cindy Sloan, Food Bank of Manatee director of operations, agreed.
"It's a real positive because we don't have any pantries out that way," she said. "For those who find it more difficult to get to pantries in downtown or elsewhere, closer will be more effective."
There are already about 60 pantries around the rest of Manatee County supplied by the Food Bank of Manatee. Church Without Limits will be another.
Sloan guided the Ericksons through the federal approval process, which involves a number of stipulations involving proper food storage, tracking the number of people being served and pest control.
"It takes a lot of work to run a pantry," Sloan said. "They'll need a lot of devoted volunteers."
Church Without Limits has them, Erickson said.
They've have been busy gathering diapers and formula for infants and scheduling pickups at area groceries for food donations in addition to getting the Food Bank provisions.
"This is another ministry for us, but we need to do more," she said.
Vin's People, is by local columnist Vin Mannix. He can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix