Marion food pantry says they're still in need of donations, despite food drives | Community Spirit
MARION, IL (KFVS) - The Marion Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry says their bare wall of shelves is a reminder that the need for donations this year may be greater that what was anticipated..
“I’ve still got a lot of empty shelf space,” Executive Director J.R. Russell said. “This is about as real as it gets.”
During the holiday season, Russell has come to expect the usual increase in donations due to the “spirit of giving.” He relies on that outpouring of generosity to carry the MMA Food Pantry into the spring.
As donations come in, the pantry fills wall-to-wall with food, but most of it leaves as quickly as it comes in. Donations are packed up into boxes for distribution. Other food donations are served to hundreds through daily lunches served in the soup kitchen.
“This year our numbers, and need, are exceptionally high,” Russell said. “It would be a busy month is we served 350 families through our food pantry. In October we helped 434 families.”
According to the pantry’s policy, those in need may come in once per month and are given approximately a week’s worth of food. Boxes are assembled based on a family’s size and need.
“Most of those we serve are on food stamps, so we just try to supplement those food stamps and get them over the hump,” Russell said. “The most disturbing number of the 434 families we served in October was the 52 who were brand new and had never been to our pantry before.”
There is no one demographic that is most in need, however, Russell points out elderly tend to make decisions based on the cost of their prescription medicines, often opting for medicine over food. He also cites job loss, underemployment and medical issues as the other main reasons for the increase in need.
An added struggle for the organization is feeding approximately 1,900 people monthly in the organization’s soup kitchen, which is open for an hour and a half each day, Monday through Friday.
Russell says he is thankful for the donations he receives from local farmer’s markets and stores which provide people some fresh foods. The soup kitchen can count on large donations of bread items from Kroger, as well fresh fruits and vegetables from Target.
“We can’t complain about our resources,” Russell said. “We have about 45 different churches that participate in some capacity. Some serve on our board, some volunteer in the soup kitchen or work in the food pantry, some do food drives, and some give financial contributions. That speaks volumes to me.”
Successful food drives during this time of year ensure the food pantry’s ability to provide services for people into March 2013. The local Boy Scout food drive, and food drives conducted through local businesses, is a mainstay for the food pantry.
“As a business owner, I believe we should be involved and help provide for the community and its needs,” Marion H & R Block Owner Eric Lindner said, “I know with the funding cuts that these community-run organizations depend entirely on our support and donations.”
Auto Credit and H & R Block were just a few of the local businesses who held food drives last month. The businesses pulled together and filled a truck with canned and boxed goods collected by employees and customers.
“We had over 5,000 items collected this year,” Auto Credit General Manager Amy Mullins said. “Everyone gets excited about helping with this project. Sometimes to be able to give back is a really big thing.”
With only two paid personnel for the food pantry and soup kitchen, Russell does not take for granted the community support or his team of more than 500 volunteers who help out annually.
“Our need is year round, Russell said. “And at a time when our time is more valuable than money, when people give so much of their time – well, that’s huge.”
To volunteer your time or make a donation to the Marion Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry or Soup Kitchen, call 618-993-8419 or visit 103 E. Calvert Street in Marion. The organization’s website is www.marionalliance.org.
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