By Estella R. Fullmer
For Hometown News
EDGEWATER -- During the holidays, the spirit of giving abounds and local food pantries normally receive enough donations to fill their shelves and feed the local impoverished families who request help.
In the summer months, the donations slow. The focus on giving is not foremost in our minds, but the need still remains. Low income families still need to keep food on the table for their children, so donations are needed just as much during the summer months.
One church that is working to meet those needs and keep its food pantry stocked despite the decline in donations is Edgewater United Methodist Church at 211 N. Ridgewood Ave.
"We have been getting nearly all of our donations from one source recently and could use some help," said Pat Tiffany, co-chairwoman of the food pantry with Connie Wildberger. Together they organize the volunteers and oversee the procurement and distribution of the food.
Edgewater United Methodist Food Pantry serves more than 244 families, including 638 individuals on a weekly basis. "Most food pantries in the area are only open one Saturday of the month, but we are here every week," Ms. Tiffany said.
One gentleman, who wished to remain anonymous, donates the bulk of the produce and some other canned goods every week. He understands what it means to someone in these situations to have a good meal. "He is our main contributor at the moment, but he can't do it alone," said Ms. Tiffany.
The food pantry is registered with the state and they purchase food from Second Harvest, an organization that was founded to help provide food to those in need. They rely heavily on monetary donations and local food drives from church members and those around the community including some private businesses.
Many of the people who participate in the program at the United Methodist Food Pantry are people that have lost their jobs or suffered an injury or illness and have very little income, if any. A few are homeless, but most are just ordinary people that have fallen on hard times and are trying to keep food on the table for their children. Some are on disability with a fixed income that may not even be covering their rent or mortgage payments. Some are on other government subsidy programs, but there also are many looking for work that were laid off from good paying jobs when the recession hit and have run through their savings and unemployment benefits.
"I came down here from Maryland after I recovered enough to travel," said one 43-year-old woman who did not want to be identified. Her mother already lived in Edgewater. She decided to move here after suffering a broken back and other injuries in a car accident two years ago. Unable to sit or stand for long periods of time and suffering from some brain trauma, which affects her ability to focus, the woman is unable to hold a job. "The disability payments don't even cover half my rent. How am I supposed to live on that?" She went on to say that if not for this food pantry she and her mother would probably be starving or living on the street.
Pastor Nancy Stiles supports the food pantry that serves Edgewater, Oak Hill and New Smyrna Beach residents and understands how important it is. They are providing food to more people than ever. Although they won't turn anyone away who qualifies based on income level, they already have more people participating in the program than they can comfortably handle on the donations available. In addition to donating food, members of the church and community volunteer their time, some of them daily, to purchase food, collect it, sort it and bag it and hand it out during Saturday mornings when the pantry is open.
They are urgently in need of canned and dry goods, fresh produce, boxed or canned drinks and fresh breads. They can always use cash donations as well as volunteers to help with the weekly operations of the food pantry.
All donations are tax deductible and can be delivered to Edgewater United Methodist Church Food Pantry at 211 N. Ridgewood Ave., Edgewater or mail checks made out to Edgewater United Methodist Church Food Pantry, 204 Hubble St, Edgewater, FL 32132-1707 or call (386) 428-6552 for more information.