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Food pantry helps those in need

| Friday, April 29, 2005

Small-town communities pull together to help their neighbors in times of need.

It's no different in Scottdale Borough where public and community support is the backbone of the Scottdale Association of Churches Food Pantry, which supplies needy families with food and personal care items.

"People helping people" is the motto of the food pantry, which is housed at the Calvin United Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Mulberry and Chestnut streets in Scottdale.

The pantry was founded in 1995 as a project of the Scottdale Association of Churches because of a growing need in the area due to job loss and the cost-of-living increase. It regularly helps approximately 10 to 12 families, said Debbie Hepler, wife of Calvin United Presbyterian Church pastor Jim Hepler. She has maintained and operated the food pantry for the last five years.

"There is a strong need in the community for the pantry," Debbie Hepler said. "We have several families in town who need the help."

Families who visit the pantry are given a list of items to take. In some cases where food allergies are concerned, changes to the regular-listed items can be arranged.

"We recommend that the families should visit us once monthly," Jim Hepler said. "No one should go hungry."

He added that the need for most families increases during the holiday season and through the winter months.

There are several different businesses and organizations that help the food pantry on a regular basis.

"The Boy Scouts just finished their Scouting for Food project and the Scottdale Post Office has a food drive that is always very successful," he added.

Debbie Hepler said Paula Connor's Junior Girl Scout Troop also helps the pantry. Elementary students from Alverton school have also donated funds.

"In lieu of a Christmas gift exchange, the Alverton elementary students donated all their money to the pantry," Debbie Hepler recalled. "We received a check for over $400 from them."

Wise's Restaurant and Kraisinger's Market have also been very generous in the past with donations, she said.

But with all the generous help, the pantry still needs many items to keep its shelves from going bare.

"We always need tuna fish, and any type of canned meat," Debbie Hepler explained. "Peanut butter, cereal, soup, and any kind of boxed dinner are also very good."

Other nonperishable items needed are boxed or bagged pasta, canned fruit, macaroni and cheese dinners, rice, stuffing, instant potatoes, canned vegetables, coffee, tea and hot chocolate mix.

Personal care items, such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo and deodorant, are also needed, and cash or gift certificates to area food stores are always welcomed and appreciated.

Some items do not move as quickly as others, and although the stock is regularly rotated, items not used for families are never wasted.

"Nothing ever goes to waste," Debbie Hepler stressed. "Anything that does not get used is boxed up and given to the Westmoreland Food Bank."

"The community really responds to the pantry," Jim Hepler added, also stressing that nothing ever gets wasted or goes unused.

The Heplers get help with the pantry from several parishioners.

Jim Hepler credits Bill Gratchic and Jeremiah Thomas with consistent help. Michael Conroy and Alyssa Clark, two youth members of the church, also lend helping hands.

"Every part of the community helps," Jim Hepler said.

For information on receiving items from the pantry or for making any kinds of contributions or donations, call the church office at 724-887-9880 between 8:30 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday.

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