Ashley Food Pantry, Northlands Rescue Mission, Heavens Helpers Soup Café named 2021 Agency of the Year Award winners

Great Plains Food Bank partners go above and beyond to show passion, service, innovation for those they serve
FARGO, N.D. – The Ashley Food Pantry, Northlands Rescue Mission in Grand Forks and Heavens Helpers Soup Café in Bismarck have been given the 2021 Agency of the Year Award by the Great Plains Food Bank for exceptional work in the fight to end hunger. Each recipient is given an award that truly epitomizes the organization’s three core values – passion, service and innovation.

The Agency of the Year Award is the highest honor given to the Great Plains Food Bank’s network of 200 food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens located throughout North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota. These partners have shown exceptional commitment to those they have served over the previous calendar year.

“I cannot overstate the crucial role our network of partner food pantries play in our ability to serve the entire state of North Dakota and Clay County, Minn.,” Great Plains Food Bank CEO Melissa Sobolik said. “And we are grateful to lift up these three deserving partners that consistently go above and beyond to help us end hunger today, tomorrow and for good. Congratulations to the Ashley Food Pantry, Northlands Rescue Mission and Heavens Helpers Soup Café for a job well done.”

Agencies are nominated for the Agency of the Year Award by members of the community, local businesses, civic organizations, volunteers or clients that believe the agency goes to extraordinary means to eliminate hunger.

Read more about each of the three award winners below.

Ashley Food Pantry – Passion award winner
Ashley Food Pantry first partnered with the Great Plains Food Bank in 2013. In that time, they have distributed over 133,000 pounds of food to 3,000 households within McIntosh County. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused challenges, they were able to adjust their food distribution to start running a mobile food pantry to create an extra opportunity to get fresh produce into the community. In 2021, champions within the community also started a backpack program to be sure children had food on the weekends.

From Ashley Food Pantry nomination: “Amy’s (Schlepp) scope of work is to make sure that everyone in need has food for themselves and family members. She has a true passion when it comes to helping others. Amy is a ray of sunshine and is always open to trying something new and wanting to do more for her community.”

Northlands Rescue Mission – Innovation Award
Since 1996, Northlands Rescue Mission has been on the grounds serving not only Grand Forks, but five surrounding counties resulting in over 1 million meals distributed to local communities. In recent years, Northlands Rescue Mission has committed themselves to addressing hunger in many different outreach initiatives and expanding existing services. Hunger-relief services include daily meals and food boxes for any community members in need, a mobile food pantry that visits five different counties in North Dakota and a backpack program, which provides meals for over 1,000 local students over the weekends. Northlands Rescue Mission staff also educate clients about other hunger-relief services in the area and provide references. When COVID-19 hit the region, they took time to expand their innovation and passion for fighting hunger and adapting their services to protect their clients.

From Northlands Rescue Mission nomination (Matt Collings): “I like to think of the Mission as a comprehensive safety net for the Grand Forks community and surrounding region. No matter what someone is dealing with, the Mission has the ability to help, whether that comes in the form of direct services or a reference to one of the many excellent service providers in the area. The Mission is also equipped to handle the most extreme cases of poverty, addiction and hunger. This is especially true due to the partnerships that Mission staff have built with other service providers. The Mission is a key link in the local food assistance chain, providing food assistance on multiple fronts (meals, groceries, special weekly meals through the backpack program).”

Heavens Helpers Soup Café- Service Award
Heavens Helpers Soup Café is a meal site in Bismarck that offers up much more than a hot meal. Everyday volunteers greet and welcome visitors into the café with a smile and compassion. They have created a welcoming safe haven for many to come and enjoy a homemade meal and good conversation. Their style is set up as a café and individuals can come up for seconds, thirds until they are content. Not only do they have dining in, but they also have to-go meals and pantry shelves for visitors to take items home. Mark (Meier) and his volunteers have served over 300,000 meals since 2009 and are open seven days a week sharing compassion, dignity and good food each day.

From Heavens Helpers Soup Café nomination: “Mark and his ‘Souper Volunteers’ have a heart for all and treats those who receive help from the various ministries of Heaven’s Helpers as honored guests and friends.”

About the Agency of the Year award
Each year the Great Plains Food Bank honors partner agencies – food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens – or feeding site that has displayed exceptional service in the fight to end hunger over the previous calendar year. Partner agencies are nominated from clients and/or community members before being received and selected by the Great Plains Food Bank. Find a complete list of past winners HERE.

About the Great Plains Food Bank
Now in its 38th year, the Great Plains Food Bank serves as North Dakota’s only food bank. Its partner network includes nearly 200 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, and other charitable feeding programs operating more than 100 communities across N.D. and Clay County, Minn. Since 1983, the Great Plains Food Bank, through its array of innovative direct service programs and partner network, have distributed more than 175 million meals to children, seniors, and families in need. The Great Plains Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network, and was named the Not-for-Profit of the Year in 2018 by the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

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