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Sunshine Food Pantry Director Faye Gaines (right) receives a plaque from Galt Sunrise Rotary President Mark King in May, thanking her for her work with the food closet.

With a potent combination of organization, generosity and drive, Sunshine Food Pantry Director Faye Gaines has helped keep a vital community service running smoothly, even in the midst of a pandemic.

“It’s a joy, and this is a ministry that I’ve been doing for 12 years, and I love every time I come here,” Gaines told the Herald at the pantry’s Thanksgiving distribution in November 2021.

With its twice-monthly distributions, the pantry serves hundreds of people, giving out nonperishable staples, as well as seasonal choices, like turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas. For its Christmas distribution, in partnership with Galt Sunrise Rotary, it also gave out holiday sweets, and toys donated by Les Schwab Tire Centers.

The Rev. Mary Maaga, pastor at Galt United Methodist Church, which runs the pantry, said Gaines’ leadership has allowed the service to continue through the past two years with minimal disruption, with Gaines implementing masking, social distancing and sanitizing measures.

“And so this year has not been that weird because she kept on top of making sure that people were well provided for, in terms of health and safety, and also well provisioned with food,” Maaga said in an interview.

Gaines also brings a personal touch to her work with the food closet, getting to know recipients by name and going out of her way to help those in need even outside the pantry’s usual hours.

“And she’s passed that on to all the volunteers,” Maaga said. “I mean, now it’s not just Faye; it’s the energy that Faye creates, this energy of open-heartedness, hospitality, no judgment.”

Maaga has served as the Galt church’s pastor for 1½ years, and during that time, Maaga said, Gaines has “helped open my eyes to … the amount of poverty among the working poor” in the community. Even in households where adults hold multiple jobs, rising costs of food and other necessities have made it harder to get through the month, Maaga said. Additionally, some older adults on fixed incomes can struggle when payments don’t keep up with the cost of living.

“And then, the food pantry comes in and … I believe that we are providing between 30% and 50% of food costs for people per month,” Maaga said.

“I think of all the things to honor her for,” Maaga said, “it’s her joy in serving the community.”

Sunshine Food Pantry opens on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, 8-10 a.m. Galt United Methodist Church is located at 571 C Street.