SHELLEY – A Shelley high school senior decided to do something extra special for his senior project this year.
Ryker Clinger, 18, raised over $100,000 to save the building that Heart 2 Hand Bingham Food Pantry was run out of.
Almost two years ago, the Shelley Community United Methodist Church closed down due to unforeseen circumstances. That left the food pantry, which was called the North Bingham County Community Food Bank, without a place to run its day-to-day operations and distribute food to over 60 families that it feeds every day.
“They were either going to have to buy the building or shut down because they wouldn’t have anywhere to operate,” Ryker tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Cole Clinger, Ryker’s dad, explains the families aren’t the only ones who rely on the food bank. With rising costs and inflation, many senior citizens are struggling to buy food and basic necessities.
“We’re seeing a lot of elderly people who are relying on the food bank because costs are rising, but they’re on fixed incomes and their incomes aren’t rising,” says Clinger. “So the need is getting greater and greater, and then there’s the potential of [the food bank] closing.”
After the church closure, Jenni Worlton, the director of the Heart 2 Hand Bingham Food Pantry, knew that closing the pantry was not an option.
“A group of us got together and created a new non-profit which is known as Heart 2 Hand,” said Worlton, who had previously volunteered at the food bank. “We officially took over the pantry last year on July 1.”
The Methodist church made an arrangement with Heart 2 Hand that they could continue to operate the food pantry out of the church building, but would eventually need to purchase it by July 1, 2022.
“We just completely took everything over so we could keep it up and running so people wouldn’t be without food,” said Worlton.
A few months into 2022, after continuous efforts trying to raise money to save the building, Ryker had an idea to help.
“My mom and her friends volunteer at the food pantry here in Shelley,” said Ryker. “She told me that it was in danger of losing its building and shutting down. So for my senior project, I decided to raise some of the money to help buy the building because I just knew that it couldn’t shut down.”
Ryker, who has just finished his junior year at Shelley High School, approached a group of community members to try and raise the funds needed to purchase the building and save the food pantry.
According to Ryker, these community members agreed to match 2 to 1 for every dollar Ryker was able to raise outside of the group. Ryker raised $25,000, so the group donated an additional $50,000, making it a total of $75,000.
Other donations included funds from Broulims and other businesses in the Shelley community.
“It didn’t really sit well with me that people would be having to go hungry,” says Ryker. “My favorite part of life is food and my first stop after dinner is usually the fridge. So it just didn’t sit well with me that people would be going hungry and not have enough to eat.”
Just last week, Ryker presented a check totaling $100,900 to the Heart 2 Hand food pantry, allowing the pantry to purchase and sign for the building on Friday, June 24.
“I would say it was a little bit of awe. It was jaw-dropping,” said Worlton. “Throughout this whole process of making sure it didn’t close, we had seen miracles all along, but then this huge miracle happened was just amazing. There is just complete gratitude for Ryker and everyone that he came in contact with to be able to save it. It’s going to bless the lives of so many people for many more years to come because of Ryker.”
Heart 2 Hand Bingham Food Pantry is now permanently located at 190 South Holmes in Shelley.