March 25 • 06:30 AM

Greater demand at local pantries

Supplies shrink while area need grows

November 04, 2009
TRI-CITY AREA — Local food pantries and kitchens are anticipating rising numbers of individuals and families in need of their generosity and services this winter.

Linda Looper, coordinator of the food pantry and community kitchen at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Imlay City, said nearly 3,100 people have partaken of the twice-weekly meals at the church since the start of the year. That number compares to 1,710 participants in all of 2008.

"There are definitely more people coming in," said Looper. "We're feeding about 50 or more people a night. There is a greater need out there because of the economy."

St. Paul's operates the food kitchen on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4-5:30 p.m. The kitchen is supported through donated food items and a core of volunteers who help prepare and serve the dinners and clean up afterward.

"We rotate our volunteers," said Looper. "This week, students from the Imlay City Middle School are coming in to help us set up and clean up. We get a lot of participation."

Imlay City Middle School Student Council member Elizabeth Prothro said she is happy that she responded to a request for help from the food pantry.

"I volunteered because I thought it would be fun," said the 13-year-old. "I get a lot of pride out of doing this. It makes me feel good to help out and I've met a lot of people. Now I've signed up to do this two days a week."

Looper said meal participants come from various economic backgrounds and diverse circumstances; but all are experiencing some degree of financial hardship.

"We get individuals, families and a few homeless," said Looper. "Many are laid off or unemployed. Most all of them say they are having problems paying their bills.

"Some of them are working but still can't keep up with everything," she said. "This (food kitchen) allows them to keep some of the money they'd spend on food to pay their utility bills."

Sharyn Knight pours coffee while Elissa Pederson and Elizabeth Prothro assist at the beverage table at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Imlay City. photo by Tom Wearing.

Looper noted that the church's food pantry could use an influx of donations to accommodate what is expected to be a greater demand during the winter months.

"We can use everything and anything right now," she said. "We are in need of canned goods, cereals, toiletry items and soaps; all types of non-perishables."

She said food pantry collection boxes can be found at several locations in Imlay City. They include: Tractor Supply Company (TSC), Family of Christ Church, the Christian Reformed Church and the Methodist Church of Imlay City.

In Almont, coordinators of the food pantry at the First Congregational Church on East St. Clair Street are expressing a similar need.

Despite a recent Homecoming food collection drive sponsored by students at Almont High School, there remains a shortage of many items.

The church's food pantry coordinator, Debbie Marvin, said toiletries, soaps, shampoo, detergents, personal items and other daily necessities are currently in short supply.

"We're on the low side," said Marvin. "We have a lot of canned foods, but we can always use more cereal, pancake mix, peanut butter and jelly and things like that. We go through a lot of those kinds of items."

Marvin said the Almont pantry took a hit this summer when a severe rainstorm flooded the church's basement, ruining many items that had been stored there.

"We have limited space in the pantry, so we stored things in the basement," she said. "After the storm, we had four inches of water in the basement. We had to throw away everything that was below water level.

"We get items from the schools and can usually depend on congregation members for donations," Marvin continued. "But economic circumstances are are not good for anyone right now. Everybody's struggling and churches and members are hurting too."

In Capac, volunteers at the C-3 Connection, located at 114 N. Main St., report that the food pantry at Capac Community Church is presently well-stocked, thanks to a large donation from students at the Capac Middle School.

There is, however, a need for winter clothes for children and adults.

"We're not short on food right now," said C-3 Connection volunteer Birget Gowen. "We can use winter coats, hats, boots and scarves for our community closet."

Gowen noted that the church will soon be collecting food items for Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for individuals and families in need.

Church Pastor Bernie Long said the church gave out more than 13,000 pounds of food last year. The same figure has been reached, with another two months to go, said Long.

Long said the C-3 Connection is open Mondays from noon-3 p.m.; and Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m.

If volunteers can be found, he said the pantry hopes to open on Friday afternoons during the winter months.

"We would like to add another day," said Pastor Long. "The Bible tells us to take care of others, and that's what we try to do."

The Ministerial Society's food pantry that was housed at St. John's Lutheran Church has now teamed up with the C-3 pantry.

The Ministerium includes Capac Community, St. John's Lutheran, First United Methodist, St. Nicholas Catholic and Zion United Methodist churches.

The Capac Kitchen provides hot meals for needy individuals and families on Tuedays from 4:30-6 p.m.

For more information, call Capac Community Church at 810-395-7429.

Grondin's food drive

Employees at Grondin's Hair Center in the Almont Plaza are sponsoring a holiday season food drive.

Grondin's Manager Kim Marschnar said all customers bringing in a non-perishable food item will receive a $1 per-item discount on a haircut, up to a maximum of $3.

"We're hearing so many horrible stories, we wanted to do something," said Marschnar. "With the food drive, we are able to help the community and offer a discount to our customers."

For further details about local food pantries or food collection drives, contact:

•St. Paul's Lutheran Church at 810-724-1200;

•The First Congregational Church of Almont at 810-798-8855;

•Grondin's Hair Center of Almont at 810-798-0110.

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