SALEM — Cars used to go to the rear of 207 Highland Ave. for service. Now it's people who are being served there.
Joseph's Storehouse, formerly known as St. Joseph's Food Pantry, began operating out of the back of the former Hillcrest Chevrolet building this fall. The pantry is now a ministry of East Gate Christian Fellowship, which leases the building and began holding services there in September.
Both the church and food pantry have seen an increase in visitors and say they're happy with the new locale.
Longtime pantry volunteer VeAnn Campbell estimated they've seen a 25 percent increase in clientele since the move. That has left them scrambling to keep the pantry shelves full.
"It's been a tremendous success, but it's almost overwhelming," Campbell said. "We are so busy that it's frightening."
The pantry, one of the largest on the North Shore, is open every Saturday and also runs a delivery service to roughly 160 needy households for residents who are elderly, disabled or have no way of getting to the pantry on their own.
In November — when the pantry wasn't even open the full month — they served 1,875 families, Campbell said.
"People came in droves," she said. "When you open the doors (in a new location), you say 'Will anyone come?' But they did. We're happy about that."
The new location is on a bus line, has plenty of parking and is handicapped-accessible — all pluses, Campbell said.
The pantry is open to residents of Salem, Beverly, Danvers, Peabody and surrounding towns. Volunteers ask for participants' hometowns and income levels at the door, but use the information for reporting purposes only.
The pantry, which was started at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Parish, had moved locations several times after St. Joseph Church closed in 2004 and was most recently operating out of a warehouse on Franklin Street.