Trish Linner
Freelance Writer
November 18, 2009 // Local

Always in need

Trish Linner
Freelance Writer

Area food pantries
need your help

By Trish Linner

ELKHART — As we enter the holiday season, local food pantries in the Michiana area want you to know they need your help to make it through the winter and feed the families that depend on them. “Right now the need is stronger than ever,” said Church Community Services Executive Director Dean Preheim-Bartell.

Church Community Services is a faith-based interdenominational nonprofit agency that assists people in crisis and empowers them to move out of poverty. Services include a client choice food pantry, emergency financial assistance, plus job and life skills programs.

“Our shelves are looking very thin. The outlook is still bleak in Elkhart County and usage of our food pantry continues to grow. We currently serve about 2,000 families each month, that is up from last year by about 500 families.”

Church Community Services works with over 50 churches in the area including St. Vincent De Paul and St. Thomas, both in Elkhart.
“We have a long history with both churches and often refer clients to the St. Vincent De Paul pantry when a client needs help in between our service dates,” said Preheim-Bartell.

Volunteers from St. Vincent’s, St. Thomas, and St. Mary’s in Bristol coordinate the St. Vincent De Paul Society at Elkhart’s St. Vincent Church. It is open every Tuesday from 1-3 p.m. and serves many families in the Elkhart area according to Bonnie Master, secretary of the group. “Our services are always in need, and we depend on the congregations in the area to keep us going. We can always use more help and more food.”

Another organization in Elkhart that is hoping for more donations is Faith Mission. The Faith Mission is a non-denominational Christian social service agency that provides food, shelter, clothing and other services for needy individuals.

According to Food Services Director Kerry Zcoch, the Faith Mission serves over 20,000 meals a month.

Zcoch said, “Thanksgiving and Christmas are our number one priority right now. We have less turkeys and hams to give out to families than last year, yet we know the need is going to be greater. We also serve both those meals to our residents, any one who walks in and to many elderly residents who are served by the Council on Aging and Real Services.”

The Faith Mission is offering a charity run on Thanksgiving morning as another way to raise money to serve their clients. The first annual Turkey Stampede will take place in Elkhart and they are hoping for a great turnout. Executive Director Mike Perez is excited to start a new tradition for runners and walkers alike. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and help the Faith Mission continue to serve the people of Elkhart who need us.”

The South Bend Catholic Charities office offered the same sentiments on their food panty as Church Community Services and the Faith Mission.
“We really depend on donations to help our clients. We can always use more,” Jo Fisher, the director at the South Bend office, said. Many local churches in South Bend organize drives specifically for Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent De Paul Society as well.

“Without the support of the South Bend churches our food pantry wouldn’t be able to serve the people we help. The need is always greater this time of year and we are seeing that as well.”

Most of the food pantries work closely with each other and with the Northern Indiana Food Bank. The Food Bank serves six counties — Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall, St. Joseph and Starke. According to staff at the food bank, one of the most challenging problems for food pantries right now is grain prices. While the price of grain rising has helped the farmers who grow it, it has left most pantries lacking in donations of grain based products like pasta, cereal and crackers. In fact, these are items that all the local pantries mentioned as things they were in very short supply of.
The food bank also stressed the need for more volunteers to help with organization and distribution of the food they stock.

“We always need more help and would be very happy to put volunteers to work,” said staff members.

So how can the community get involved to help? Here are some tips for organizing a food drive:
• Contact the organization you want to help and find out what their needs are.
• Pick a date for your drive to start and end, usually three weeks is enough time to get started and keep the excitement alive.
• Set an ambitious but reasonable goal for your group to meet.
• Pick a collection spot. Make it a convenient and visible location for everyone.
• Spread the word with email blasts ahead of time and with updates during the drive. Posters and announcements are helpful as well.
• Start collecting. Use smaller boxes for easy lifting.
• Deliver your food to the organization at the end of your drive.
• Thank everyone for participating and helping those in need.

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