It’s taking three to replace one

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Pat Kasner and Ray Johnson of Flint Street Fellowship Food Pantry reflect the finest in volunteer service to our community. For nearly 14 years, Pat directed pantry operations, served as board president, and expanded services to include increased clothes distribution and the Back Our Kids program. Quietly in the background, Ray served as board treasurer for 15 years as well as picked up food from Northwest Arkansas Food Bank every month. Pat and Ray both retired from their volunteer positions on March 1. Also retiring is long-term board member Gerry Potter who effectively managed the Pantry’s insurance needs.

The community will come together on Monday, March 18 to celebrate them and honor their contributions. All are welcome at the Retirement Celebration from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the Convention Center at Inn of the Ozarks. A short presentation, including a mayoral proclamation, will be held at 5:45 p.m. Clients of the Food Pantry who need transportation to and from the event should meet at Flint Street just before 5 p.m. and a shuttle will be provided, courtesy of a generous donor.

Flint Street Food Pantry, which is a local institution and serves critical needs for many residents, has new leaders to introduce. A needs assessment is in process and additional services will be provided once it is completed.

Flint Street Fellowship, the official name, was founded in 1990 by Elsie Johns as part of a Bible study – a group that had prayed about how best to serve the community. Food distribution started in the basement of the original First Christian Church prior to the group purchasing the Little Chapel. The lunch program was added in the late 1990s. Clothing was added later and Pat says she believes it is the only place for free clothing in Eureka Springs.

Pat began her service as a volunteer in 2004 and a year later was tagged to be director and board president. With responsibility for Monday and Wednesday food distribution and Tuesday and Thursday lunches, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners – Pat also fed clients’ spirits as well as their stomachs. Flint Street serves not only as a place to get food but also as a social center. For area school kids, the Back Our Kids program, providing food for weekends during the school year, has been vital.

Love thy neighbor is how Pat operates. “Pat never saw a person she wouldn’t help,” newly-elected Board President Nile Carrothers said. “No matter what day, what time, or what reason Pat always responded with a smile and a prayer,”

There is no aspect of Flint Street Fellowship, called the Food Bank or Pantry by most, that Pat wasn’t involved in – including mopping floors and cleaning toilets at the end of the day. Ray Johnson expresses his experience, “Pat is the ultimate volunteer worker. To give an example, I would go in to bring food or pick up checks after everyone left in the afternoon, and there was Pat mopping the floor. She is the hardest working person I have ever seen. It doesn’t matter what it is and she loves it. The Pantry is good for Eureka Springs and it is good for people who need it and for people who work there. It’s fun to go in there on Tuesday or Thursday when people are having lunch and are happy.” Ray’s wife Sara also volunteered at the pantry.

Rev. Betsy Porter is a board member and has served as volunteer cook for 10 years. “Although Pat has never once in the ten years I have known her claimed a ‘Joy of Cooking,’ she has never once failed to thank and praise the Flint Street cooks for our joy of cooking and serving our lunch guests,” Betsy said. “Her gracious and sincere praise has inspired and encouraged us hundreds of times.”

With her normal humility, Pat takes little credit and instead focuses on all who help – volunteers, Rotarians, Boy Scouts, American Legion, car and motorcycle clubs, festivals and parades, local churches, businesses and individuals. “The volunteers are all absolutely wonderful,” Pat said. “They all care about the people who come in. The volunteers have fun and make friends with each other. Ray has been a joy. He is so easy to work with. He is such a nice guy – easy going and not an unreasonable stickler.”

Mostly, Pat gives credit to her faith. “I am a Christian and I have received Jesus as my Lord and Savior and have surrendered my life to the Lord. I would not have been able to run the Pantry on my own. God is the one who put it in my heart. I had no experience and no skills. God equipped me to do things every step of the way. I can’t give Him enough praise and glory for that. He worked miracles with the place. I want everyone to know that God is good and there is joy and peace in serving him. He wants us all to trust Him with our lives. I knew he would let me know when it was time to leave. There are so many relationships with volunteers and clients that have made it a joy to be there.”

She lives by Romans 8:28. “All things work for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Pat also voices appreciation to her late husband Ed for “his patience” when pantry paper piles filled their living space.

“When I first put in my resignation notice six months ago, I had no hope that anyone would ever step forward to do this volunteer job.  However, I put my complete trust in God to make it happen. Sure enough, at just the right time, He brought forth three very capable and extremely caring women to take over. They are Donna Artzer as Director and Charlotte Vail and Paula Koch as Assistant Managers.  I couldn’t be more satisfied with how it happened and how it will proceed and grow with the resources that I see these ladies are going to put into the operation of Flint Street. Kent Turner was found within a few short weeks of needing a new Treasurer – just in time.”

Pat’s selfless dedication has resulted in a mayoral proclamation naming March 18 Pat Kasner Day.

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