Connellsville Community Ministries appeals for pantry donations
It is a fact, without good, dependable volunteers, Connellsville Area Community Ministries could not exist. It is also unlikely that the needy of the area would have their needs met without generous donations to the food pantry.
“The food pantry is probably the thing that CACM is best known for. It impacts the most people,” said Chip Rowan, executive director of Connellsville Community Ministries.
Jack Love is the longest serving volunteer at CACM. His service has stretched more than 19 years. He is the food pantry manager.
“Jack does a great job. He's been here a long time,” Rowan said.
Love was asked by Chuck Motycka, who was the former director of the Connellsville YMCA, to get involved with the community ministries.
Since then, he's worked with several directors, including the Rev. Gerald Witt and the Rev. Terry Guiste.
“I started learning about the food pantry, and I stayed. I got to know a lot of people by giving them their boxes and also made friends with the staff,” Love said.
Food box distribution has been made easier at the new Crawford Avenue location because the building had a conveyor belt system in the basement.
Love said it allows for greater efficiency in taking in donations and unloading trucks from the Fayette County Food Bank. This is where Love spends much of his time using his organizational skills.
“This is a big place, so we all do a lot of walking,” Love said.
Shelly Auer, Connellsville Community Ministries assistant director, said currently the local food pantry is trending about 57 more families helped each month this year over last year.
“It is unpredictable, though. The boxes of food per family coming from Fayette County Community Action Food Bank contain less now. There are 11-12 items in the smallest family box. There used to be 14-20,” Auer said.
Families are able to choose items from the food wall for extras, depending on their household number, and that gives them some extra selection in variety.
A system is in place to determine how many extra a family can have. Last month 1,068 extras were given out.
“We want to let the community know that we need more food coming through our doors. We are appreciative of all the food drives and collections. The food coming in has not decreased, the food going out has increased,” Auer said.
“Jobs are not out there, and the price for everything has gone up. Those are the reasons I believe there is a greater need, more than all the years I've been here,” Love said.
The staff at Connellsville Community Ministries is appealing to the community to give what they can.
Staff members suggest an office challenge during the holidays or putting an extra canned good in your shopping cart during grocery visits.
Local businesses assist the food pantry.
Dollar General in Connellsville continually runs a collection by encouraging shoppers to buy extra and leave it there. It then goes to CACM. Connellsville Wal-Mart and Martins had delivered foodstuffs to the Salvation Army, but since that meal program has closed, the items are donated to CACM.
The most needed items are cereals, noodle mixes, fruit and vegetables in cans, beef stew, canned meat, mashed potatoes and stuffing in a box, macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper.
“Ramen noodles are popular with the kids. Pasta keeps well along with sauce. Spam is well liked,” Love said.
Auer said there are 1,151 names of families or individuals who are signed up and have come through the doors for help. The list is 42 pages long. She said there is an average of 350 boxes that go out each month.
“What that means is that many have only needed help one time. In our tracking, we often see names of those who have been here maybe four times, then got back on their feet. We are helping many for a short period of time. If we had to help everyone on the list every month, we just couldn't do it. In many cases, we are just helping them along. We are not creating a dependency or a habit.” Auer said.
“There are those who are disabled, elderly or single parents that we see each month. Others that we help are able to move on in their lives,” Love said.
Personal hygiene products are also welcome. Soap and shampoo are appreciated. Cleaning products too are helpful.
The elderly often use much of their income for rent and need such household cleaning items and laundry detergent but cannot afford them, said staff members. These things are not out on the food shelves but are given out as needed.
Monetary donations are welcome in any amount and allow the CACM staff to buy items that are low.
CACM is currently conducting its fall “Sharing The Harvest” campaign.
The goal is to raise $100,000. The funds will provide resources for the ministries in these amounts: crisis assistance, $35,000; partners for life mentoring program, $5,000; PUMP program, $5,000; food pantry, $5,000; and ministry building improvements, $50,000.
More information on the campaign is available on the ministry website, www.connellsvilleareacommunityministries.org and click on the Fall Campaign tab. You can also email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 724-626-1120. Donations can be sent to CACM, 110 W. Crawford Ave., Connellsville, PA 15425.
Nancy Henry is a contributing writer.