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Debbie Noland – No One Goes Hungry in Nolensville

“No one goes without food in Nolensville, even in the tough times of COVID-19,” Debbie Noland said with determined conviction.

Nolensville Food Pantry depends on Debbie and the weekly crew of volunteers to keep the shelves stocked in the two-story, barn kit build- ing. She’s done her job for 13 years with fierce resolve for the pantry that had been a ministry of the Providence Baptist Church but is now a stand-alone 501(c)3.

“Everything started in a tiny space that we seemed to out-grow overnight,” Debbie said. “We started out in a closet in a member’s ga- rage, and we’ve grown to a two-story storage building. We’re in a good spot today, able to serve 111 families a week this past year.”

Second Harvest, a huge food bank in Nashville, supplies some of the food. Publix and House of Bread in Nolensville give bread, rolls, and more, and other stores donate items about to expire. “Redemption City Church Farm and local farm- ers provide fresh vegetables every summer,” Debbie said. There are residents who make sure pet food is available, too.

The Pantry received or purchased 255,000 pounds, and 49,000 pounds of that was donat- ed by Nolensville residents.

“We have everything nicely arranged and dis- played because we want this to be a happy and caring experience for the families we serve. We know it takes only a heartbeat to fall on tough times. It can happen to all of us.”

Those at the pantry make no judgments about any of the people they help. “That’s the last thing they need,” she said. “Instead, they need love and hugs. We make a point to always have

laughter at the pantry. It’s especially difficult for people making their first visit, and we can soften their negative emotions if we make it just a nor- mal, pleasant experience.”

First-time visitors never know what the Food Pantry may have for them. “Sure, they trust we’ll have all the basics — the staples that go into their pantries,” Debbie said. We also offer meat; household supplies such as toilet paper, soap, detergent, shampoo, and cleaning supplies; and personal hygiene items.

“We also have an area for odds and ends,” she said. “Surprises like a box of 2024 Taylor Swift calendars I picked up. How long do you think those lasted? They went like hot cakes! We refer to this area as the Marketplace, and everything is set up under tents.”

Each family can select several items from the Marketplace. Each family also gets two full bags of food and household items, including diapers, from the pantry.

“The entire project works like a well-oiled ma- chine, supported by the most amazing group of volunteers in the world,” Debbie said. “Some- thing else amazing is we only pay for approxi- mately 40 percent of the thousands of pounds of food we distribute. Our portion last year came to $68,000.”

Scheduled food distributions are every Thurs- day, 8-11 am. There are exceptions for anyone needing something specific.

“COVID was hard on us, just like it was on every- one else, but not one person in Nolensville went hungry,” Debbie said. “Our residents stepped up and kept the pantry full. That wasn’t surpris- ing because that’s the spirit of this town. We honestly look out for our neighbors. Hardships such as COVID are one of the primary reasons we get to know the families we serve and learn

how to contact them. We never want to overlook someone in an emergency.”

Christmas is another unforgettable experience! “Last year we had 600 kids to be ‘adopted.’ We put out a call for donations, and it was hard to believe how toys and other gifts came rolling in! And all 600 kids were adopted in less than two weeks. Their parents come in to do the shopping.”

The pantry also delivers food every Thursday to the kids in our six schools. “We want to know they have food for the two days at home. We know we’ll have an increase this summer in the number of families we serve because the kids will be out of school. Last year we averaged serving 85 families per week at this time, and this year we are averaging 105. We don’t antici- pate the numbers going down, but we’ll be here to serve them.”

Debbie says her husband Kenny is her right- hand man. “He’s always on the move delivering to the schools, picking up bread — whatever needs to be done.”

That “whatever needs to be done” attitude is what ensures that with the food pantry in town, no one in Nolensville will ever go hungry.

1668 Sunset Rd. (Next to Providence Baptist church office.)

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