AURORA — Dozens of volunteers are pitching in to collect nonperishable food for the Volunteers of America pantry as part of the fourth annual Fill a Bag, Feed a Family effort initiated by Food2Share, a ministry partner of Christ Community Chapel’s Aurora campus.
Bags were delivered to local homes this past Saturday, and organizers are hoping residents will open their hearts, fill up the bags and place them on their doorsteps this coming Saturday, May 12, when dozens of volunteers will pick them up and sort the food.
Last year, co-chairman Katie Monroe said 96 people were out on the city’s streets gathering the bags, and 70 more worked to sort the food. Henk and Bryn Stock are co-chairing the effort this year.
Bryn said around 55,000 pounds of food has been collected in the first three years of the effort, and she would like to see 20,000-plus pounds collected this year.
She added a downpour of rain for several items on last year’s collection day may have contributed to only 17,000 pounds being collected.
Fill a Bag, Feed a Family is a community event aimed at stocking the shelves of the VOA’s food pantry during the summer months, which are usually lean for food pantries, according to organizers.
Organizers are stressing that residents should not place expired food items in the bags. Last year, Monroe reported the effort took in several boxes of expired food, which "legally, the pantry can’t give away."
Pickup shifts this Saturday will be from 9 to 11 a.m. and 10 a.m. to noon. Sorting help at a facility provided by a local business will be needed from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and noon to 2:30 p.m. Anyone who can help should visit www.myfillabag.org/aurora/2018.
The Stocks were approached by Fill a Bag, Feed a Family originator Bruce Harris to chair the effort this year. Bryn said she has volunteered to collect food the last couple of years, and is very familiar with the program.
"I have a soft spot in my heart for the food pantry," she said. "A lot of Aurorans don’t realize there are people here who depend on the pantry."
Bryn said her daughter and niece also have been interested in seeing that needy people have enough food to eat. In the past, they made Christmas cookies and went door-to-door selling them to raise funds for the food pantry.
"The planning for this year’s effort has gone very well," Bryn said. "There are a lot of amazing people who help out each year. This is a really great cause."
"Fill a Bag, Feed a Family is a wonderful example of a community coming together to aid those in need," pointed out Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin.
"I credit Bruce with the vision and determination to make the program a reality, and I credit all the volunteers and community members who donate their time, food and funds for such a worthy cause."
SCOUTS AID EFFORT
Meanwhile, Boy Scout Troop 269 and Cub Scout Pack 3269 sponsored by Our Lady of Perpetual Help, along with Troop 265 sponsored by Aurora United Methodist Church, are working together going "Scouting for Food."
It is an annual program in which Scouts ask the community to assist a local food bank. It started in Aurora in 2004 as a door-to-door campaign with Scouts from the pack and troop at Our Lady.
In the second year, Scouting for Food expanded to include a retail store solicitation component, where Scouts would ask customers at area stores to make a purchase and leave a donation as they exited, plus the door-to-door campaign continued.
In 2015, after meeting with Harris, the Scouts decided to focus on the retail store component, while Fill a Bag, Feed a Family focused on the door-to-door campaign.
On May 12, Scouts will be at Walmart in the Marketplace at Four Corners on Route 43 accepting donations for the VOA food pantry. In addition to nonperishable food, Scouts are seeking health and hygiene products that are true necessities.
Most needed items are canned fruit, fruit juice, cereal, pancake mix, soups, egg noodles, spaghetti sauce, rice, canned meat, tuna, canned stews and Hamburger Helper.
Most needed hygiene items are toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, toothbrushes, disposable razors and hand soap.
Since 2004, Scouting for Food has collected and donated more than 55,000 pounds of food and more than $5,000 to the VOA food pantry.
"The pantry serves Aurora residents who find themselves needing assistance, and the need in our community continues to grow," VOA food pantry coordinator Sue Altman said last year.
"Every summer, the food pantry experiences a decline in donations and the goal of Fill a Bag, Feed a Family and Scouting for Food is to assist during this critical time."
"The Scouts and community volunteers are working to make the drive the biggest and most successful yet — to help those in the community who need it most," said Scouting for Food chairman Gary Jancsurak.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.