The Nelson County Pantry began back in 1997 with a series of meetings of concerned citizens and several local church ministers. There were a number of small food pantries operated in the churches, but it was felt that the needs of the Nelson County residents could better be served through a coordinated effort.
The first Nelson County Pantry was put into service at the Massies Mill Presbyterian Church. As the needs of the Pantry grew, it became apparent that more space was needed, preferably a more centralized location in the County. After a brief stay in the basement of the old St. Mary’s Catholic Church, in Lovingston, the Pantry moved across from the Church to 611 Front Street in late 1999. We continued to use the basement at St. Mary’s for client registration, health screenings by RHOP and refreshments.
In 2003, it was evident that something would have to be done as the volume of persons in need of assistance grew and construction of the new St. Mary’s Church was underway. Not only was the Pantry distribution area inadequate, but the use of the basement at the old St. Mary’s Church would no longer be available after its final sale.
In late 2004, at the request of the Pantry Board of Directors, the Pastoral Council of St. Mary’s and the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond agreed to allow the Pantry to construct a 1,500 square foot building at the south end of the new church parking lot. Funding for the new Pantry came from several large grants and corporate gifts as well as from local churches and individual donors. Several building supply companies donated materials. A major part of the actual construction was done by volunteers from the Nelson County Home Builders Association and the members of the Real Nelson organization. Other local contractors provided labor and materials at reduced prices.
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Dick Nees was one of the founding members of the Nelson County Pantry and served as it’s President from the time it was organized in 1997 until he was called by his Lord and Savior to serve in glory on October 24, 2020.
Dick was a very quiet and humble man who led by example. He never asked anyone to do anything he was not willing to do himself. He did so many things behind the scenes like making the Food Lion pick-ups of donated baked goods, taking cardboard to the recycling center and picking up venison from Hunters for the Hungry processors. He was always willing to meet someone in need so they would have something to eat. The call would come in and he would just go! We had no idea what large shoes we had to fill when his health began failing and he had to step back.
As President, he worked with the Diocese of Richmond and St. Mary’s Catholic Church to secure the current location for the Pantry building and oversaw it’s construction as well as many other projects. He was the face of the Nelson County Pantry for many years and served as it’s ambassador, representing us at fundraising events and community meetings. He was our grant writer and the voice of wisdom at all of our board meetings. His seat at the table may be empty, but he left us with many good lessons in how to serve others with compassion and selflessness! He can never be replaced and will never be forgotten!