With holidays swiftly approaching, many will find themselves looking for opportunities to express the spirit of giving.
Several local organizations are not only in need of supplies and donations, but volunteers as well.
For the first time in its more than 20 year history, Mother’s Cupboard Food Pantry is closed to the public on Sundays. The decision was driven by a lack of volunteers.
“We can’t fill all our shifts with volunteers, and without cooks and servers, we can’t put food out the door,” Mother’s Cupboard Board of Directors President Sandy Richardson said. “We just need more people to help out.”
During the pandemic, hot meals have been served out of the window at Mother’s Cupboard. The volunteer base has dwindled and needs to be restocked, Executive Director Sherry Houze said.
Around this time of year, churches and schools do food drives to stock the shelves of the pantry, but Richardson said they could always use more.
The biggest ordeal, however, is finding volunteers.
Various churches in the county have recently “dropped off” the calendar, having served for so long, Richardson said.
“COVID has been tough on our volunteers, just like it’s been tough on our customers,” Houze said in a press release.
The kitchen has also had to close here and there when there is no cook to make the meals.
“The community really depends on this, on that hot meal,” Richardson said. “They can go to the pantries and get groceries, but some might not have the capability of cooking.”
The numbers of those served have gone down since the pandemic started and the amount of government assistance increased. Now that those factors are resetting, the number of those served is going back up, Richardson said.
When Richardson began as a volunteer in the kitchen, she said she became “hooked” on volunteering after seeing the reaction that customers had to the volunteers being there and giving their time to help them.
“Especially because in our school district, we have a lot of hungry kids,” she continued. “They come, their parents come and these are the meals they’re getting. It’s not just adults, it’s elderly people, it’s children. It’s people who are actually in need.”
Food is always needed at the pantry, but volunteers to get that food to hungry residents are the bigger need at the moment.
“We really, really need volunteers,” Richardson said. “That’s where we’re failing. It’s awful because sometimes you just can’t (open), if you don’t have anybody to cook. It’s a huge need.”
‘No one should be struggling’
Local nonprofit organizations work hard to ensure that no resident in the county is cold or hungry this time of year.
On Nov. 17, COAD will host a pop-up pantry at Unity Baptist Church in Spearsville. God’s Grace will be passing out free new coats to boys and girls.
Another local organization is looking for donations of time and materials for its annual giving event.
St. Vincent de Paul of Brown County will host its annual Christmas Celebration on Dec. 4, 11 and 18. The event is open for parents, grandparents and guardians to choose Christmas gifts for their children and grandchildren.
Last year, more than 500 children and teens were served.
SVDP needs roughly 30 people to do the event and help with personal shopping, SVDP President Shirley Boardman said.
SVDP is one of the only distribution centers in the county where people can get furniture, clothing, appliances and food goods.
“We continue to lift up our neighbors and make Brown County a place where no one should go hungry and no one should be struggling for their needs,” she said.
And SVDP is not alone in needing extra help this holiday season.
The Brown County Interfaith Alliance met via Zoom on Nov. 9 and discussed needs in the county. Boardman said that an overarching theme of the meeting was the need for people to be involved in the community as volunteers.
Mother’s Cupboard, the Salvation Army and the Brown County Children’s Auction were among those who expressed the need, Boardman said.
To help get more volunteers on board, Mother’s Cupboard will have a volunteer call-out meeting and training Nov. 28 from 1 to 3 p.m.
Those who attend the call-out will get a tour of the kitchen, training on the equipment and safe food handling procedures. Those who want to work with a seasoned cook and those who are ready to fly solo will be able to sign up for their first shift.
“This time of year, we’re reminded to reflect on what we’re thankful for: friends, family and enough food to eat,” Richardson said.
“Mother’s Cupboard is all about making sure our neighbors have food to be thankful for.”