Mary Beth Sallee
Reporter, Hart County News-Herald
Food. Personal hygiene items. Clothing and shoes. These are the everyday basic necessities of life.
But unfortunately in Hart County, there are individuals and families who are in need of these items on a daily basis.
That’s where Dr. Virag Pandeya, M.D., and his wife Jackie Pandeya, APRN, have stepped in with a servant’s heart, striving to ensure that everyone receives what they need and deserve.
For the past several years, Virag and Jackie have been involved with many charitable organizations. These have included The United Way and The International Center in Bowling Green for Refugees. Locally they have also worked alongside Angel Bergenson and the Helping Hart organization, playing a key role in the Free Community Needs Event that helps to provide haircuts, clothing, hygiene items, and meals to anyone in need. With Helping Heart, the Pandeyas have also been involved in Read-N-Feed events, providing children with free books and a meal.
At Dr. Pandeya’s medical office in Munfordville, Virag and Jackie have had a food table set up in the lobby for patients or anyone in need of food. When schools were closed in March of 2020 due to the pandemic, the couple also provided frozen meals to the parents of adverse children within the county.
The Pandeyas have also hosted a winter coat and toy giveaway for Hart County children. Last year, an Easter egg hunt was held at Dr. Pandeya’s medical office. This was a free community event that also featured basket giveaways, prizes, and photos with the Easter Bunny.
Virag and Jackie’s most recent venture has been Malti’s Clothes Closet, located at 950 Main Street in Munfordville behind Dr. Pandeya’s medical office and Green River Fitness & Physical Therapy.
“We started to see the need as we met folks in the county. Soon, we started asking folks, ‘Can you afford this med? Do you have food, bed?’ This is how we started to see the need,” Virag said. “First, we started giving food, clothes from the office. Soon it got so big that we felt the need for a separate building.”
“The name of this closet is after my mother-in-law who passed away in India in February 2021 due to natural causes,” Jackie said. “She was a remarkable individual who thought of others all the time and did charity work on a daily basis. She was a great mother and always helped her community.”
Malti’s Clothes Closet not only offers free clothing to those in need, but also shoes, food, baby items, and furniture.
“We are pleasantly surprised by the number of people coming who are in need and those who are donating their time and valuables,” Jackie said.
Everyone is welcome to Malti’s Clothes Closet. No ID is needed, and no questions are asked. The hours of operation vary and are posted on the Malti’s Clothes Closet Facebook page.
“We are always looking for volunteers to work at Malti’s Closet so we can keep it open longer hours,” Jackie said.
Although the husband and wife duo are giving back to their community in a variety of ways, Virag and Jackie still have additional goals they hope to accomplish.
“Our dream is to have a shelter for the needy, have volunteers to interact with the folks in need, and influence their decision-making for the better,” Jackie explained.
“We believe if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day,” Virag added. “If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
In an effort to recognize those who are striving to make a difference in the lives of others, the Hart County News-Herald recently welcomed nominations for the newspaper’s “Hometown Heroes” monthly feature
An email was received from Charlene and John Planz of Horse Cave nominating the Pandeyas as January’s “Hometown Heroes”.
“We would like to nominate Dr. Virag Pandeya and his wife and nurse, Jackie Pandeya, as Hometown Heroes,” the email stated. “The Pandeyas recently opened Malti’s Closet near their medical practice. I’m sure you are aware this is a completely free clothing and food bank. They have funded all of it themselves and manage its volunteers. In addition, the Pandeyas take newcomers to the area, like us, under their wings, helping them meet people and grow a support network in the community. They have been instrumental in helping us establish John’s gunsmithing business, just asking that we pay it forward when the opportunity arises. We really can’t say enough about how wonderful they are. (They are) just truly caring and giving people. They set an example for all of us.”
Because of Virag and Jackie’s undeniable efforts to help their community, the couple was chosen as the Hart County News-Herald’s first “Hometown Heroes”.
“We are honored and humbled for this nomination and selection as the first ever Hometown Heroes,” the couple said. “We would like to thank the people involved and all the volunteers. Also a special word of thanks to the following individuals for helping us bring Malti’s Closet to reality: Mr. David Denney, Mr. John Planz, Mr. Mark Day, Mr. Jordan Pate, and Mr. Mark West.”
When asked what inspires them to dedicate their time to their community and to those in need, Virag did not hesitate to answer: “Those who are given a lot, a lot is expected from them.”
On behalf of Jobe Publishing, Inc., the Hart County News-Herald is honored to have Dr. Virag and Jackie Pandeya as this month’s “Hometown Heroes”. We are grateful to have them both as outstanding members of our county, and we thank them for all that they do to make a difference in the lives of others.