Benzie Area Christian Neighbors, Recipient

Benzie Area Christian Neighbors (or BACN) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. BACN was founded in 1983 when a dozen area churches came together with the idea that by working together, they would have a more effective outreach.

An example of their collaboration is the BACN food pantry. "The pantry has evolved gradually to bring our practices more in line with our goals. Here at BACN we show dignity and respect to our neighbors," said David Abeel, BACN Director of Development. "This is why we gradually moved to a self-shop model—so we could give people choices, and we believe that's an important way to show respect."

In 2010, the pantry increased dramatically in size when it moved to the current location. Even as the economy struggled and unemployment hovered at 15 percent, BACN was able to triple in size. Correspondingly, the number of neighbors seeking assistance more than doubled.

The BACN food pantry is like a small grocery store run by 30 volunteers. The "neighbors" who shop there receive "BACN Bucks" that are distributed based on family size. The shoppers choose whatever they desire or need, and they pay with BACN Bucks. "The store operates on a philosophy of treating all who enter with dignity and respect, and part of doing so is to provide choices and to respect those choices," said Abeel.

BACN was awarded a 4imprint® one by one® grant and used it to purchase 50 blaze red aprons, to be used during food drives. One of the volunteers was excited to help pass out flyers at a local food drive wearing her apron. "The aprons helped to transform this young girl, who was very shy at first, into an outgoing, eager helper. She put on the apron and was officially on-duty," said Abeel. "The aprons are very bright and give our volunteers a great sense of team camaraderie."

For more information about Benzie Area Christian Neighbors, please visit
http://benziebacn.org/