Saturday, June 14, 2014

Helping hands

A can of green beans. A loaf of bread. Fresh vegetables and fruit. For many of us, these are things that we have at our disposal in our kitchen cabinets. For others, it's a challenge to pay the rent or mortgage, and a bigger challenge to put food on the table for their family. In partnership with the Itasca Walk-In Ministry, the Itasca Food Pantry provides local families with vital resources to put meals on the table when they need it most. Today, the food pantry serves 75 families in Itasca.

This morning, members of the Itasca Runners Club and their families spent a few hours helping at the food pantry, sorting food, stocking shelves, and learning about the incredible work that the Ministry and food pantry do. The Itasca Food Pantry is one of the beneficiaries of the Club's annual Itasca Oktoberfast 5K, the Club's flagship event held every October. Proceeds from the event allow the Club to support several local charities, providing both monetary and tangible item donations to those organizations who give back to the community. Recently, the Club was able to provide a Sub Zero freezer to the food pantry, giving them more space to keep meats and other frozen goods that they provide to their clients.
Volunteers tour the room of stocked shelves

A newer offering by the food pantry is the Birthday Bag program. Launched just a few months ago, the food pantry assembles bags filled with items to help make birthdays special for children aged 1-13, including a cake mix and frosting, candles, table cloths and other decorations, and age appropriate gifts. All of these items are donated to the food pantry, and parents can choose a bag for their child, already sorted by age and gender. The food pantry believes that every child should have something that makes their birthday special, even something as seemingly small as a festive table. Today, the food pantry provides bags for 70 children in their client families.

Helene presents the Birthday Bag
program to volunteers
The Runners came to work, and that's exactly what we did! Adults and children alike went to work sorting canned foods from boxed foods, stocking the shelves so clients can find what they need, filling boxes with toiletries and personal items, and cleaning the work room.
Father and son, working hard
Dan and Mark filling crates
with meats
Jim stocking shelves
Teamwork at its best
These kids worked hard!
Club members learning about
the Walk-In Ministry

The food pantry presented the Itasca Runners Club
with a certificate of appreciation for their
continued support of the food pantry's mission.

Members of the Itasca Runners Club.
Club members and
future Club members their children.

I will be the first one to admit that our family does not volunteer nearly enough. When you hear the stories of families who spend years donating to the food pantry, only to find themselves later needing the pantry's services, it is inspiring to witness the work that the women and men who run the pantry do for their community. Through generous donations from the community, as well as partnerships with the village, local food stores, and a regional food bank, they are able to provide a vital service to the community. In today's world, none of us ever knows if or when we might need a service like this one, and it's nice to know that it is there when emergency assistance is needed.

Have you volunteered lately? Do you know where your local food pantry is? Call your local village hall to learn more about the health and human services that they provide to your community.