Conrad “Tiny” Jacob Steinhauer, a former rebel biker, turned the focus of his life to helping people after experiencing tragic events. For the last five years, Steinhauer and his army of volunteers have created a place for anyone seeking a warm meal and a place to rest.
Steinhauer, better known as Pastor Tiny among the regulars, is an associate pastor at Grapevine Fellowship and runs the food pantry at 2323 S. Nellis Blvd. from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and from 10 a.m. to noon Fridays.
“Some places make you feel like you’re a lower form of dirt when they take you in,” Steinhauer said. “I swore that when I took over this food bank, it’d be like visiting Jesus.”
Steinhauer took over the food pantry in 2007 and since said he has welcomed all sorts of people.
The food pantry feeds hundreds, including families, the homeless and those struggling with drug addiction or mental illness.
“We welcome everybody, as long as they behave,” Steinhauer said. “We’ve opened our doors to people who live under bridges, are homeless, drug addicts or mentally ill. Some of them have even become my personal friends.”
Armed with $200 in weekly donations from the church, Steinhauer buys most of his food from Three Square food bank, which sells fruits, vegetables, cookies, bread and other canned goods to the food pantry for a significantly lower price than regular retail stores.
Steinhauer is always looking for volunteers. Each volunteer is given a specific duty, including cooking, putting out the clothes, filling up grocery bags and serving food.
According to Steinhauer, volunteers come in at 8 a.m. Tuesdays and 6 a.m. Fridays to set up and cook meals. On average, there are 20 to 40 volunteers.
Depending on one’s living situation, there are two types of food bags that are prepared. One contains food that can be stored in the refrigerator, and the other has food that can be kept at room temperature for those who live on the streets.
“We call it a loaves and fishes operation because we’ve been able to feed hundreds of people with $200 a week,” Steinhauer said. “We’ve never had to turn anyone away.”
Joshua Herron, 26, started volunteering at the food pantry one month ago. He said he was passing by one day with his daughter and decided that he wanted to help.
“It feels good to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s amazing to see how everything just fits together. My favorite part about volunteering is seeing those homeless people smile.”
Dean Higginbotham, senior pastor of Grapevine Fellowship, said the church has always had a food pantry, but each year it keeps growing.
“We don’t give people enough groceries to really make a big difference in their life, but they appreciate the little that we have to offer,” Higginbotham said.
In addition, people can sign up for a 20-minute hot shower and to use a washer and dryer. Volunteers also put out free clothes for adults, children and infants, household items, adult diapers and carts.
Tables are set up for people to eat their food inside, where live music is played by Phyl’s Angels Tuesdays and Fridays, fronted by Steinhauer’s wife, Michelle. People can also chose to eat outside under shaded covers.
Tomasa Guzman comes to the pantry on Tuesdays and brings her 6- and 8-year-old daughters.
“I like coming here because I feel really comfortable, and it helps me provide food for my daughters,” Guzman said. “I’m a single mom, so money can be tight.”
According to Grapevine Fellowship, last month the food pantry provided 2,692 bags of groceries and 1,811 hot meals to people.
That same month, the food pantry was awarded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Outstanding Partner Award.
Joe “Vince” Vincent has lived all over Las Vegas homeless or on the verge of being homeless. He said he enjoys the friendly atmosphere of the place.
“Tiny makes everyone feel welcome. He’s just a big, lovable bear,” Vincent said. “I used to live in New York, and I’ve never had food like the food they serve here.”
Joannie Woods has been participating at the food pantry to provide free mobile phones with her daughter, Nicole Colavolpe, since February. Woods works with Total Call Mobile, which operates the Lifeline program. The program is government-supported and provides free mobile phone service to qualified low-income customers.
Every Tuesday and Friday, Woods arrives with 50 to 100 phones that come charged with 250 minutes. Each month, the phone resets itself with 250 minutes, and the company can do swap-offs if the phones are broken.
“This is such a good program because it gives people an opportunity to get a job,” Woods said. “You can’t get a job without a phone. Plus, people can keep in contact with their family.”
In order to qualify for the program, people must show an identification card, proof of residency and proof that they are enrolled in certain government programs or that their household income is below a certain percentage of the poverty line.
Steinhauer said there is something at the food pantry for everyone. His goal is to share the love of God with as many people as he can.
“I don’t know what my purpose in life is,” Steinhauer said. “This food pantry gives me some meaning, it gives me a purpose.”
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter Sandy Lopez at email@example.com or 702-383-4686.