Geographically speaking Las Vegas, USA is located in a desert. Deserts are hot and are short on resources like food and water. One thing this desert is not short on is compassion.Las Vegas has grown into a large metropolitan area which more resembles an oasis. A giant green spot in the middle of a most inhospitable place. Unfortunately no matter how luxurious and comfortable an area of resources can be there is always a point of transition back to the barren wasteland. All metropolitan areas have this tale of “haves” and “have-nots” but not all cities of this size and scope carry with it as fitting an analogy as Las Vegas. No matter which direction you leave Las Vegas you hit desert.
For nearly 30 years, United Methodist Social Ministries (now neatly rebranded Open Doors Community Services) has been working to improve the lives of people in need. On their website they share the core mission of the program as, “We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage each of us to reach our fullest potential.” Through working with government agencies, social agencies, and other religious programs they are working to address the larger issues that affect their community. They have many programs that provide a holistic view of ministry serving not only the physical, but mental and spiritual needs of the Las Vegas community.
The Family Food Pantry, known as Grace’s Market, is one of the core programs which grew out of a weekend food assistance program created in 1987. A humble food closet run out of a local Methodist church in 1994 has grown to be a family food pantry. Starting in 2012, it began operating as a “client choice” pantry wherein clients can choose food for their family from nutrient-rich categories and miscellaneous items. The services have grown to cover nearly fifty families each weekend. It is estimated they serve over 7,000 clients each year. Qualified candidates are allowed to choose their own foods within four four food groups. The amount of good given is based on family size. The food comes from a variety of places. Many Las Vegas area United Methodist Churches provide food as well as volunteer to staff the pantry. The leaders have also connected with other food suppliers and businesses willing to donate food on a regular basis.
You can learn more about the Oasis created by Methodists and the food pantry known as Grace’s Market at Open Doors Community Services