When you’re not sure what to do, sometimes you just have to take the next right step. Regina Taylor, founder and manager of the Mt. Zion Food Pantry in Manhattan, Kansas, is living proof of that.  

After Regina tragically lost her husband of more than 20 years, she and her three sons were forced to figure out a new path forward. Through the boys’ various activities, she met Carl B. Taylor, pastor of Mt. Zion Family Worship Center, who had lost his wife in the same year as her. As someone who was in the same grieving process, he pointed Regina to counseling resources for herself and her boys. The two developed a friendship, and in time they grew closer, fell in love, dated and married. 

Regina laughs that she never imagined herself as a pastor’s wife, but here she was. And there was plenty to do at the church. Mt. Zion is heavily involved in service efforts in the region, including running a treatment center, two boys’ homes and a daycare. When a need opened for a new manager of the daycare, Regina stepped into the role, which she held for several years. 
Cue the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.  
Though they tried to keep the daycare going as long as they could, Regina helped make the call to press pause due to staffing turnover and the continued risk of transmitting the virus to the kids and their families. With an empty church building, canceled ministries, and no end to the pandemic in sight, Regina again found herself looking for answers as to what she should do next. 

“I remember sitting in the fellowship hall thinking, Lord, what is our ministry now?” Regina says. “I didn’t get an answer at that point, but things began to happen.” 

Regina kept hearing about the USDA’s Farmers to Families program that assembled produce boxes from local farms for distribution in the community, so she did some research and realized that there was a participating farm right there in Manhattan. The church was able to secure an initial 400 boxes, and when they announced the distribution, the community response was overwhelming.  
Regina and her team continued to say yes to each opportunity that presented itself, partnering with the Manhattan Soup Kitchen, which works with local restaurants and grocery stores to get food that can’t be used in their establishments to people experiencing food insecurity. Then, in 2021, they became a Harvesters Partner Agency. 

After the onboarding process and revamping the way they organized the pantry, Regina recalls watching community members peruse the freshly stocked tables and feeling like she finally had an answer to the question she asked at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“That was just the beginning of something that I had no idea it was going to be,” she says. “At that moment, I realized that ‘Oh, this is what our ministry is now.’”  

Carl and other members of Mount Zion Family Worship Center work incredibly hard to make sure that the pantry is always stocked, organized and running smoothly. They’re all in, and it shows. The Mt. Zion Food Pantry is open on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 pm. Regina stresses their commitment to serving anyone who comes through their doors. They don’t require any identification or proof of qualification. People can simply show up, take a number, and get the food that they need for themselves and their families. It’s always a diverse crew that shows up to the distributions, and the volunteers (often times along with their children) are happy to serve.  
Maybe this isn’t the answer Regina expected when she asked for a new calling. But it certainly is a beautiful one.