Matthew 25 Ministries begins as an outreach of Adventure Life Church, to provide food boxes to local families struggling to meet their basic needs. The first month, they serve 14 families and are astounded by the local need. Eventually, families begin to also receive partial assistance with rent and utility bills. 2003 As the number of families served increases, other local churches begin to volunteer time and resources to support the ministry. Matthew 25 Ministries begins to outgrow space at Adventure Life. Due to increased need and tight quarters at Adventure Life, local churches see the increased need and come together to form Caring Hands Outreach Center and expand services for people in need within the Southeast Polk community. Having changed the name of the organization to resemble a community effort, rather than a ministry of just one church, Caring Hands is also charged with finding an independent location.
Matthew 25 Ministries receives a new name – Christian Community Food Pantry, the first of several potential ministries to be developed under the umbrella of Caring Hands.
The Caring Hands ministry of the food pantry explores sharing space with another local resource for families in need, the Clothes Hanger (a program of Central Place, the local school district’s family resource center), which provides gently used clothing and small household goods for all ages. The goal of sharing space is to make it easier for families to access both programs at the same time.
With this new partnership comes growth in the numbers of people served, and it is quickly apparent the food pantry and Clothes Hanger need larger, and permanent, space. After an extensive search, the Caring Hands board purchases property in the northeast area of Altoona, in a homey brick house that was previously the site of a gift shop. Local volunteers oversee extensive remodeling, and the doors open in October to a location that easily serves both programs and offers room to grow.
Changes with Central Place result in Caring Hands taking ownership of the Clothes Hanger in July, and both programs continue to thrive. Donations consistently increase to meet the demand for clothes, food, and rent/utility assistance, and the food pantry expands its space for food storage. The programs now serve up to 260 families each month, and the numbers grow significantly every year.