Numbers keep volunteers continuing to help at local food pantry


Carol Wagner Leader Correspondent

Photo by Carol Wagner Volunteer Cherie Zelinger arranges food at the Shawano Area Food Pantry and Resource Center. Yearly totals continue to show the necessity of the pantry.

This time of year keeps Shawano Area Food Pantry and Resource Center coordinator Flo Withers and all the volunteers committed to what they are doing to help the community as the yearly report reveals the necessity of their service.

“People are getting the help they need,” Withers said.

Last year, 6,589 loaded grocery carts went out the door. A total of 446,808 pounds of food — 375,226 donated and 71,581 purchased — went through the food pantry. The food pantry helped 4,956 adults and 11,172 children.

“One thing that strikes me is every month we have new clients,” Withers said.

The numbers usually stay steady as for everyone who has been helped and doesn’t need the food pantry anymore, there are others who do.

Withers is helped by many volunteers, some of whom have been there from the start.

“They are so loyal,” she said. “They take it as a real responsibility.”

Withers and everyone else involved with the food pantry are all volunteers, with no monetary compensation.

Rose Cary has been helping in the kitchen for eight years. She came from a big family and worked around food.

“It’s one of the corporal works of mercy, feed the hungry,” Cary said. “This is my way of doing it.”

Volunteers arrive early to stock shelves and repackage larger items. Among the many items clients get to choose are vegetables, canned meat, frozen meat, cereal, eggs, bakery, juice, pasta, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Withers said they can always use boxed dinners like Hamburger Helper.

“Everybody is treated with respect,” Withers said.

Currently clients can get food for an Easter breakfast meal courtesy of the Crawford Foundation who does the same thing at Christmas.

Hope Community Church and the United Way donate to supply the pantry with milk for a year. Withers has appreciated another grant which provided coffee.

She said many people who used the pantry return to help either with money or time. She also noted that these people are often the ones who contribute regularly as they know how the pantry is necessary and has been there to help them. She is also thankful to the organizations who donate money and have food drives for them.

Keeping the food pantry running is a job that all those involved take seriously.

“We get thank you notes from people who are doing good,” Withers said.