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Anderson community group fills the gap where grocery stores used to be

The 765 Food Desert Project provides a weekly mobile market in an area on the west side of Anderson, which has been without a grocery store since 2017.
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Posted at 4:50 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 18:18:48-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Every Tuesday at 11 a.m. you’ll find a long line of cars in the liquor store parking lot at the corner of Raible Ave. and Nichol Ave. in Anderson.

That’s where Marilynn Collier has been passing out free food, baby diapers, and other household necessities on a weekly basis for more than a year.

“If no one else is going to help us, we have to stand up and help ourselves,” said Collier.

Collier, who is a chaplain, saw a need in her community and decided it was her calling to meet it. The mobile grocery story is a nonprofit called the 765 Food Desert Project. The initiative came out of a group called the Gathering of the Queens, the Royal Sisterhood.

"The Gathering of the Queens started because it was my 60th birthday and I promised the Lord if he let me get there, then I would do something for our community,” Collier said.

The group of women make trips together and have been involved in other ways, but now, they are focusing on the food desert in their hometown.

Collier chose the location for her mobile market because it’s within walking distance to the nearby Bingham Apartments. It’s also serving an area that has been without a grocery store for years.

“It started in 2007 when Payless [grocery] closed and then when Marsh closed in 2017 that was the end of it. That actually started a full food desert,” Collier explained.

People like Pam Stokes stop by the mobile market every few weeks to pick up groceries.

"It's a wonderful thing that they are doing,” said Stokes.

Stokes said she is lucky to have her vehicle, but it’s still no longer convenient for her to get all the way to the store.

"Because you've got to drive across town to get to a grocery store and I feel sorry for the people who don't have transportation,” Stokes said.

The nearest grocery store is Payless, which is about three miles from where Collier has set up shop.

Usually, Collier and other volunteers serve around 125 people each week. She says she’ll continue to show up every Tuesday to ensure the people in her community get what they need.

"Our motto is, 'A community, better, stronger, together.' If we can stick together, we can make this situation better for ourselves. We can't wait for people to do it for us,” said Collier.

Volunteers with the 765 Food Desert Project along with other area nonprofits are heading to the Bingham Apartments on Friday to pass out food and offer assistance to help move tenants. Some people who live in the apartment complex have been given notice that they must move out by the end of November due to the owners no longer accepting Section 8 housing vouchers.

If you would like to donate to the 765 Food Desert Project, you can stop by the corner of Raible Ave. and Nichol Ave. any Tuesday at 11 a.m. or you can mail donations to 2222 W. 12th St. in Anderson.

Click here to donate!

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