KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A food pantry ministry at a Knoxville church has become so successful that church leaders need to expand.

The Five Loaves Food Pantry at Lennon-Seney Methodist Church began two and a half years ago and hundreds of bags of food are given away every month. Right now, food is stored and bags are prepared inside the church filling up several rooms and church members say they’ve outgrown the limited space in their building.

Now, church leaders have a plan to renovate their garage to meet the growing need of their pantry ministry. However, to accomplish their goal, help will be needed. Since the fall of 2020, the church’s Five Loaves Food Pantry program has served thousands of people.

“Oh, it’s awesome, it’s a blessing. Whenever I see it, I swing through,” said Debbie Norris.

“This area is a food desert, there’s not a lot of good grocery stores here. So we try to provide some of the needs they would find at the grocery store,” said Rose Foster, Inventory Director.

In one of the Sunday School rooms, volunteers pack close to 200 bags on the day the pantry opens, the fourth Tuesday of every month. However, space in the church to store food is running out. Presently bags fill the hallway and a former classroom is now the food pantry.

“This is where we began. We were crunched in this little room. We did our dry goods and we did our canned goods in here,” said Carmen Hicks, Five Loaves Pantry Director.

Hicks said the church’s small Sunday School room has been converted into storage for the food that comes from Second Harvest. The room is just too small.

“The idea is to move out to the garage so we will have more space to store food and prepare the grocery bags,” said Nat Foster, Trustee Chair.

Lennon-Seney’s garage is conveniently located, but it needs work before it is ready. Retired architect Nat Foster has drawn plans to transform part of the garage.

“It would have to be air-conditioned. Before you air condition it, you have to insulate it and put up drywall,” said Foster.

“Nat has put together the design and we have a vision. We have been dreaming about what this could look like with tables we can receive food, so we can pack it up and give it to people when they come,” said Reverend Leah Burns.

The panty is a community-run organization. Several different churches along Dandridge Avenue donate food and money. With the expansion though more help is needed.

“We would like to expand to two give-a-way a month if we had the people to do it, the space to do it, and the funds to do it, “said Hicks.

“I’m just grateful and thankful. It’s been a true blessing and I appreciate it,” said Cheryl Walker.

The Five Loaves Pantry has a vital mission in this community to leave no family wanting food.

Already, church leaders have received commitments from First Methodist Church in Oak Ridge. Other volunteers close to Lennon-Seney on Dandridge avenue have also stepped up.

Reverend Burns said the church will provide the materials to renovate the garage, but electricians, painters, and laborers will be needed to complete the work. The goal for completion is sometime this summer. Those who want to help can call 865-247-5154.