Rev. Ellie Foster, pastor and executive director of Wesley House, has a dream. Come Sunday, she hopes the place will be packed so full of food from the floor to the ceiling that she won’t even be able to move around the building.
Sunday will be the fourth Horn of Plenty community food drive benefiting the Wesley House food pantry. Pittsburg residents are asked to place bags of non-perishable foods on their porches by 1 p.m. Volunteers will pick up the bags between 1 and 5 p.m.
Pittsburg Morning Sun subscribers received Ron’s Grocery plastic bags with their newspapers, but any bag may be used.
“We have to be already over 40,000 pounds of food donated over the pat three years,” said Rev. Kevin Arensman, First Christian Church pastor who patterned the drive after one he worked with in Enid, Okla. “Unfortunately, the need keeps growing.”
Rev. Foster has the statistics to prove that. Records are kept on the number of individuals and families served by Wesley House, and back in 2007 a total of 13,852 individuals received assistance.
“Our total of individuals for 2012, as of the end of August, is 13,016,” she said. “That just blows me away.”
Total of individuals served in 2011 was 23,465.
“We were setting records right and left last year,” Rev. Foster said. “This year we’re constantly seeing new families seeking help. I had four or five of them come in on Monday. A lot of these new people are those who used to enjoy giving us donations in the past.”
It’s no surprise then that donations are down.
“Food costs are up,” Rev. Foster noted. “Normally summer is one of our busiest periods, and this summer was frantic. I think the desperation level of people is growing because they don’t have money for the bare necessities of life, like food.”
Rev. Arensman, however, said there is still reason for hope.
“When you look at the rest of the world, even other places in our own country, we have great resources here,” he said. “We have great people here who respond generously. If everybody would contribute just one food item we’d have food up to the ceiling.”
Rev. Foster agreed.
“A lot of people doing a little bit can make a huge difference,” she said. “One of the phenomenal things about this food drive is the number of volunteers involved.”
Rev. Arensman said that 34 groups are volunteering their time Sunday afternoon to help.
“There are at least five in each group, so there will easily be 200 people involved, maybe closer to 300,” he said. “These are people of all age, from Girl Scouts to retired folks collecting food from 1 to 5 p.m.”
Page 2 of 2 - Other volunteers will be working at Wesley House to handle the food as it comes in.
“It’s like a carnival out here on food drive day,” Rev. Arensman said.
Donated food should be non-perishable. Particularly needed are peanut butter, canned meats, macaroni and cheese, cereals, soups and both dried and canned beans.
“We give people the choice of receiving dried or canned beans, and a lot of the older people asked for the dried beans because they know they can be stretched so far,” Rev. Foster said. “Some of the younger people say they don’t know what to do with dry beans, and I’ve given a lot of directions in how to cook them.”
She and Rev. Arensman note that while economic conditions may be getting better in some areas, the recovery hasn’t spread yet to southeast Kansas.
“This food drive does not solve the issues in our society, but it can help people survive until they are solved,” Arensman said.
Rev. Foster is sustained by her faith in God and the generosity of the community.
“God has provided for the past seven years that I’ve been here,” she said. “When things have gotten bad, God has come through.”