Wilsonville food pantry providing food, clothes for families in need

(Reporter Photo/Stephanie Brumfield)

Penny Kovakas, right, pictured with Brooks McDonough, left. McDonough donated about a dozen Christmas presents to the Kovakas Food Pantry on behalf of his church Dec. 5. (Reporter Photo/Stephanie Brumfield)

By STEPHANIE BRUMFIELD / Staff Writer

WILSONVILLE – When Penny Kovakas’s husband survived a life-threatening illness in 2010, he kept telling her, “God saved me for a reason. I just don’t know what that reason is yet.”

One day, he knew.

“I’m supposed to feed the hungry,” he told his wife.

Just six months after Jim Kovakas came home from the hospital, the couple opened the Kovakas Food Pantry, located in a renovated Weening house just walking distance from the Kovakases’ own home.

Jim Kovakas renovated the almost 115-year-old building specifically for the food pantry, and the location is what makes the food pantry so special, Penny Kovakas said.

“What excites me the most is seeing these people’s faces when they see this old home,” Penny Kovakas said. “It thrills them to come in, and they often say, ‘This reminds me of granny’s house.’ It’s a joy to try to share something like that with other people.”

Since giving away their very first items in December 2010, the Kovakases have more than quadrupled the number of people they serve, and their list of regular donors has grown, too.

For Thanksgiving, the pantry provided everything from ham to pastries for more than 50 families. Each family is given a bag of about a dozen items valued at $25-$30 each time they visit the pantry, Penny Kovakas said.

Brooks McDonough, a member of First Baptist Church of Sylvan Springs in Jefferson County, said his church began making quarterly donations to the pantry about a year ago after learning about its “serving God by helping others” mission.

McDonough brought Christmas presents for about a dozen children on Dec. 5 on behalf of the church.

Sylvan Springs members have also donated toiletries, paper goods, food and clothes in the past.

“We do whatever we can do to help,” McDonough said.

The pantry also received about 1,000 pounds of food from Alabama Power, which donates to the pantry annually, and about 600 pounds of food from Wilsonville Elementary, as well as other donations from a host of donors.

“Words don’t seem to be enough when you have that much help and support,” Penny Kovakas said.

The Kovakas Food Pantry, located at 658 Shelby County 431 in Wilsonville, is a nonprofit organization that distributes food and other items to qualifying families twice each month. Food is distributed every second and fourth Friday. The next distribution date is Dec. 20 from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

For more information about how to donate or how to qualify for assistance, call Penny Kovakas at 205-365-6001.