Happy Thanksgiving after all

  • By Tara Kinsell November 19, 2012
Samantha Kniha, left, of the Corner Cupboard Food Bank, checks off food items to be added to a pallet for Thanksgiving distribution. Vista volunteer Kyle Kooyers and food bank director Jan Caldwell wait for Kniha to tell them what to pile on next. - Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – An emergency food drive held Sept. 23 to help the Corner Cupboard Food Bank restock empty shelves has taken on a life of its own. The inspirational stories of giving that have come out of the drive are those that, even if only for a moment, restore one’s faith in humanity.

On Sept. 16, Jan Caldwell, the director of the food bank, revealed the nearly bare warehouse and freezer. The holidays were looming, and Caldwell had no idea how she was going to get food to feed her clients. It wasn’t shaping up to be a Merry Christmas for those she helps, and she had yet to get through Thanksgiving.

The food bank had suffered a 53 percent reduction in state food purchase program funding while the cost of food had risen by 21 percent in 2012. That said, Caldwell and her volunteers today will distribute everything that is needed for a traditional Thanksgiving feast to the remaining two food pantries in the county that haven’t received November food allocations.

Caldwell said Lynn and Joe Manning and their business partner, Joe Cerenzia of Alpha Omega Communications, organized the drive that has motivated so many others to act. Since the September emergency drive, more than $250,000 in donations and 17 1/2 tons of food have poured into the food bank.

“Lynn read about our need in the newspaper, and she called me. In a few days, she had us on the courthouse steps and the folks at Alpha Omega inspired all of these others to reach out. I am so thankful for what everyone has done,” Caldwell said. “I know it sounds crazy, but it just keeps coming. I am getting behind on my thank-you cards. I am just thrilled.”

From the very young to the very old, those with very little and those with quite a lot, Caldwell has continued to be in awe of the outreach that has extended way beyond Greene County’s borders.

“We have enough now to get us through to August. I know people are going to see the numbers and think, ‘I don’t need to donate because they have this,’” Caldwell said. “But, we purchased 27,706 pounds of food for our November distribution with Thanksgiving. That was $15,404.03 for one month.”

During normal, non-holiday months, the food bank needs about $10,000 for barebones operations, according to Caldwell. With the quarterly allotment from the state of $11,810, Caldwell has $1.54 to spend to feed a family for one month.

Prior to the emergency drive Caldwell was counting on fundraising efforts and donations to continue to provide for her 6,000 clients. Today she is breathing a little easier knowing she has the next several months under control and no longer has to brace herself when opening the freezer at the food bank. It is far from the empty state is was just a few short weeks ago.

“It isn’t about me,” Caldwell wanted to emphasize. “You volunteers out there, you made it happen. From the one in the trenches at the food pantries to those who keep dropping off checks and food. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.


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