From “small beginnings”, five years ago, well-known businesswoman Val Irvine, along with Lesa Beatty, launched The Pantry foodbank in Lisnaskea.

Based in a compact kitchen at the back of Val’s bookshop on Main Street, their joint initiative has flourished and the colleagues will ring in the New Year on a positive note with the exciting announcement that The Pantry is moving to new, spacious premises.

“It was both of our visions,” recollects Val, who explained that The Pantry came about in October 2013 following prayer. “We had prayed how could we help the community,” remembers Val, who reflected on the effects of the Recession.

“We were aware of this kind of service,” indicated Val, who recalls that they received a cheque for £25, which got the project ‘off the ground’ - “offering a helping hand from God above just to show his special love.”

Lesa explained that they opened in a “very small way with the generosity of donations” and she says everything they needed was supplied by individuals.

“It has grown and grown,” said Lesa, who pointed to their wide range of stock as she chatted in the run up to Christmas – a busy time for The Pantry.

“The need has definitely got greater,” believes Val, who talks about those affected by sickness and those “just not meeting their bills.”

“People turn up at the door,” said Val, who mentioned that various organisations are referring people to them.

As the Pantry developed, a charity was formed, and Trustees were appointed, who help Val and Lisa with the foodbank’s management.

Having now progressed to another stage in their journey, Val disclosed that recently they bought new premises in Lisnaskea, which she mentioned were previously the Corner House Bar.

“We had been praying for bigger premises,” said Val, who pointed out that their facility “will still be The Pantry” but it will come under the umbrella of the 3:16 Trust.

They are hoping to extend the services, indicated Val, who pointed out that the money for the venture “is being provided through prayer.”

“We will take over the premises on 11th January,” she said, adding that it will be a whole new chapter in the New Year.

“We are all in awe about what God has done from the beginning of this,” admits Val, who reiterates that it “all started with a £25 cheque.”

She added: “Lesa and I are both so glad we picked up on the vision that God had given us.”

Although The Pantry will move to a new location, people will still be able to drop off foodbank donations at the bookshop.

The two women are grateful for the support of the public and Lesa points out they have lots of “amazing regulars” – who drop off goods.

They are thankful for the backing from all the churches and schools and they pay tribute to all the businesses who support them.

Describing their stock, Val explained that it is “everything you would use from you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night.” As well as non-perishable foods, she referred to household and cleaning products, toiletries, toilet rolls and kitchen rolls. They also receive donations so that they can buy products.

Every Tuesday people call in at The Pantry to collect food bags, while deliveries are also made to some homes. People “really appreciate” the service, feels Val, who explained that “when people find their feet again”, they come back and give in to The Pantry.

Both she and Lesa enjoy the work and they regard the service as giving the recipients a boost.

“I love helping people,” admits Val, who also “loves listening to people.” A fun person, she likes to see The Pantry as a fun place and she spoke about the importance of “a smile” being the first thing to break down any barrier.

In addition to providing food bags, they “offer prayer” and tell callers that they can pray for them or pray with them. “We have people coming for spiritual food,” they said, continuing: “It is letting them see Jesus is real.”

Val, who enjoys speaking to various groups about the service, said “it’s God at work” and she feels the new premises will “give more space for fellowship and getting to know people.”

Excited about the upcoming developments, they confess they “never envisaged the bigger premises” and they also find it “encouraging that other doors will be opened through it.”

“Branches of this tree are starting to flourish,” highlights Val, who shares a portion of scripture which she said God gave her at the “very beginning” of the initiative: “Do not despise these small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. Zechariah 4:10.”

She and Lesa are very appreciative of all the donations received since The Pantry opened and would welcome any further support.