Community donations save food pantry

MOUNT UNION – Although things looked bleak last week as the Mount Union Area Food Pantry closed its doors, an abundance of community donations has made it possible for the food pantry to reopen on Aug. 27.

“Last week we had no funding and almost no food,” said Rev. Gordon Ross, food pantry director. “We have since received $10,000 in monetary donations and our shelves are full. It’s been an overwhelmingly supportive response from the community.”

The food pantry has been struggling since January, when state funding for the year ran out, Ross said. Though consistent donations from area organizations were keeping the bank open, it was just not enough to serve the regular demand, he said.

“We serve about 5,000 people a year and that number continues to climb,” Ross said. “The state gave us $13,000 for the year, starting July 2012, and it was spent by January. We’ve been expecting another $17,000 from the state, but we have no idea when that’ll come through.”

When people heard about the food pantry closing, donations began flooding in almost immediately, Ross said. It’s clear that residents really care for those struggling in the community, he said.

“People were leaving boxes of food at the church or even on my front porch,” Ross said. “A number of groups are running food drives, businesses are putting out collection boxes and we’re still receiving checks in the mail.”

Among the groups that donated to the Mount Union Area Food Pantry, is the American Legion of Huntingdon, which gave $5,000 of the $10,000 monetary donations collected.

“Mount Union is a very depressed area and the food pantry helps so many people,” said Mary Scialabba, assistant manager of the American Legion. “It seems like every six months they serve more people. We thought it was a very worthy cause.”

It’s true that Mount Union has been hit hard by economic troubles, Ross said. Between the strike at Bleyer Gift Pack Factory and the closing of the FCI Electronics plant, most people who come to the food pantry are well below the required income guidelines, he said.

“The people of Mount Union are hard working, they just need some extra help,” Ross said.

Food donations are being accepted at 10 W. Market St., Mount Union, and monetary donations should be mailed to Mount Union Area Food Pantry, 611 N. Jefferson St., Mount Union. Contact Ross at (814) 542-4778 to schedule a food drop-off.