A network of volunteers, food pantries support hungry neighbors
December 7, 2021
At the Food Bank of Delaware, every day we recognize that our volunteers are the heart and soul of this organization. In addition to the loyal volunteers who help in the Volunteer Rooms at both our Milford and Newark sites, a small army of Food Bank of Delaware Hunger-Relief Partners provide hands-on help at local community food pantries statewide.
The Lake Forest Church Association Food Pantry in Harrington, a long-time Food Bank of Delaware partners, provides food to local families out of a house converted into a food pantry on Mechanic Street adjacent to the Harrington Police Deptartment. A sign posted at the second-story level notes that it is the Anne Paladino House in homage to its late founder. Miss Anne, as she was known, passed away in 2018, but volunteers Andy Petrach, executive director, and Elaine Straughn, volunteer coordinator, carry on her mission.
According to Miss Anne’s obituary, she volunteered “as Executive Director of the Lake Forest Church Association Food Pantry for over 20 years. The food pantry was one of her greatest accomplishments. She was the driving force for its expansion as the requests for food increased. Applying for grant status, she worked hard to secure a sizable space for over 60 volunteers to work and store food. Many have benefited from her selfless acts of kindness.”
Petrach is quick to note that this pantry is not only supported by a dozen church congregations throughout the Lake Forest School District, generous community organizations also help provide food.
Just recently, for example, Scouts from Cub Pack 534 and Boy Scout Troop 534 sponsored a large drive by delivering brown paper bags to local homes. Scouts picked up those donations and delivered them to the pantry. That collection stocked the shelves not only with canned goods and non-perishable food items, but also with much needed paper towels and personal hygiene supplies.
In addition to the Scouts’ effort, others such as EZ Finance, Roseville Estates, and Heritage Tractor Club held drives yielding substantial donations. “The community is very, very generous,” Petrach noted.
On a quick tour of this pantry, Petrach notes that shelves and freezers are full, and boxes from recent food drives hold supplies waiting to be sorted. “We are very fortunate our shelves are not empty,” Petrach said.
Those donations will go back to neighbors in need. This pantry offers food assistance by appointment on Tuesday and Thursday mornings; once a month, each family is eligible to pick up enough food for seven days. Crisis assistance is also available, as needed, for new clients.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the actual distribution system has been modified; volunteers take food and supplies in a cart out to a vehicle rather than inviting people inside.
“We were open during COVID,” Petrach notes. “And we’re open in bad weather.”
Naturally the ongoing pandemic has impacted the volunteers’ comfort level; typically, there are 4-5 volunteers each shift. “But we never know. We just roll with it,” said Straughn. “We have a really good group of volunteers, and our clients are always thankful.”