Caring for the community: Manteo High School student partners with Outer Banks Presbyterian Church to help combat food insecurity

Published 1:24 pm Sunday, October 23, 2022

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While driving on US 158 through Kill Devil Hills, passers-by may notice something different about Outer Banks Presbyterian Church (OBPC), which sits right off the highway to the east. Now stationed in front of the church entrance is a mounted box stocked with food, toiletries and other necessities. This food pantry box was brought to life and inspired local Manteo High School student Elisabeth Writtenberry, who has a grown to care immensely about the needs of her community.

The Writtenberrys moved to the Outer Banks from Virginia in 2010 and found welcoming arms at OBPC right away. Hollie Writtenberry, Elisabeth’s mother, is the director of youth, children and family ministries at OBPC and said her daughter “has such a big heart for people,” which led her to take action within her church community to support those in need in Dare County.

“She is very passionate about social justice,” Hollie noted, “and about helping those who are in need and making sure that their needs are being met. That has always been on her heart.”

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Elisabeth has served on the Beach Food Pantry Youth Advisory Council, volunteered with the Souper Bowl of Caring movement and has even helped Room in the Inn receive funds for those who are in need of a place to stay through a school essay she had submitted and won second placed for last year. “In her involvement in those activities, she has become increasingly concerned about how we reach people,” said Hollie.

Through OBPC and her work with various organizations, Elisabeth has learned about how the world is hurting and what steps have been taken to combat hunger in the country. The one that stood out the most was the concept of a food pantry box, or a “blessing box.”

The young humanitarian said, “I went to a youth conference this summer and they talked a lot about how our world is hurting and how it’s up to us to really do God’s work to make a difference and make this world a better place. That made me think about what to do and I decided to have a blessing box at our church.” After describing her vision to her pastor at OBPC, Rev. Dr. Joseph Moore, Elisabeth spoke with both the witness and outreach committee and the building and grounds crew about the project.

The high school freshman partnered with Charles (“Winkey”) Roberts and Jerry Moore of the buildings and grounds crew and together they came up with a plan. “We talked about measurements and where to put it at the church and then they got right to work on it,” she explained. Hollie added, “She took her own money to get the supplies and stock the box initially. She made a flyer for the church and joined the witness and outreach committee to oversee the project.”

Once the food pantry box was constructed and placed in its permanent home, Elisabeth invited her congregation to participate in keeping the box stocked. “I got up at church on Sunday and spoke about the box. I wanted the whole church to get involved. It’s up to us to keep box stocked for anyone who will need it.”

Hollie shared that her daughter had made a slideshow when she approached church with statistics of food insecurity and why this would meet a need in the Outer Banks community. Elisabeth noted it would allow people to donate what they could right there on the spot, with no designated collection date and time. She has made a point to go to the box faithfully almost every day since its establishment, keeping data records and ensuring the box is full of necessities. “Take what you need, leave what you can, but above all be blessed by God” is the motto tied to this blessing box.

“This church has been a home to me,” said Elisabeth, “they have always looked over me and given support to me and my family.” As of now, the blessing box is her main focus, but she is not opposed to taking on more projects with the church in the future. Elisabeth plans to go to college with a focus in music studies. She hopes to become an elementary school music teacher and may go on to attain her masters in seminary.

The food pantry box is located at Outer Banks Presbyterian Church, 907 S. Croatan Highway in Kill Devil Hills, milepost 8.5 on the bypass.



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