Thanks to community efforts, an increased need for assistance won't necessarily mean more families will go hungry this holiday season.
The local help is coming primarily through the Twin Valley Food Pantry via a major food drive spearheaded by National Penn Bank's Morgantown and Elverson branches.
“The food pantry is not a small effort,” Howard Moss, who runs the pantry with his wife Carol, said. “It's truly a community effort. It's great to be able to have the community come together for this cause.”
The pantry, has been open four years since its reopening, and Moss said he has seen it go from serving just 28 families to just over 150 families in that time. In a typical two hour distribution each month, pantry volunteers hand out about 12,500 – 14,000 pounds of food and items. The pantry also supplies cleaning supplies, hygiene products and diabetic and gluten-free food.
“We have about 55-75 volunteers each distribution, and we don't always seek out volunteers, but they often come to us out of the goodness of their hearts,” Moss said.
One big way to give to the food pantry this season is through a food drive being held at the Morgantown and Elverson branches of National Penn Bank. The drive is part of Generous Hearts, an employee giving campaign with a local focus at each branch held annually.
Tara Frey, a customer service representative and the Generous Hearts coordinator at the Morgantown branch, said the Twin Valley Food Pantry was a natural choice for the campaign.
“We picked it because it was local and last month they served over 100 families,” Frey said. “So we just thought it was an important way to try to help the community.”
Distribution day this month is Nov. 19, and the pantry is trying to give every family a Thanksgiving dinner with the holiday approaching, including turkeys. But National Penn Bank will continue to accept donations through Dec. 13 to help stock the pantry for next month's distribution just before the holidays, too.
As part of the campaign, the bank is also accepting monetary donations to help pay for the turkeys and other food supplies. Anyone who donates money gets to write their name on a paper turkey and have it hung up in the branch they donated at.
“I just think it's important to support the local community where our branch is located,” Joann Steffy, manager at National Penn Bank's Morgantown and Elverson branches, said. “Some of the people that go to the food bank could be our customers.”
She added that she was very happy with how supportive and community-minded National Penn is toward employees serving the surrounding areas at various branches.
“It's amazing how generous this community is, how much food we end up getting,” she added. “It's usually a little slow in the beginning and then it starts to really come in (by the end). This community and the Elverson community are so generous.
“We had one person in here yesterday who gave us $25 for a turkey and didn't even want their name on it. And that's common.”
Moss said the pantry has seen a lot of outside help over the last few years. They've had the department of health come and give free flu shots, the Girl Scouts have held back-to-school drives to collect school supplies to hand out, the Gideons have handed out New Testaments and the manager of Walmart has even held a job fair at the distribution.
This year, D'Ambrosio Dodge has agreed to give two turkeys to the effort for every car they sell, and canned goods will also be collected at this year's Community Thanksgiving Eve service at St. Thomas Episcopal Church with Elverson and Harmony UM Churches to be donated to the pantry.
“It's a good feeling, one to be able to help, but also to see the community come together,” Moss said. “If you can help someone get back on their feet, hey, that's a pretty good feeling.”
For more information on the Twin Valley Food Pantry, visit them on the web at conestogamennonitechurch.org/outreach.html.