Santa’s Helpers (a.k.a. Sue Neustifter, Louis Box, Sharon Bohm, Rita Strahl, Donna Brown, Jane Marconette and Mary Ann Stewart, not pictured Jane Massey)
Eudora News and Information ~ www.eudorareporter.com
There is a group of hardworking people at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Eudora, but you won’t see them preaching from the pulpit or leading worship on a Sunday morning. You’ll find them in the church basement on Wednesdays. They’re the volunteers of the Eudora Food Pantry.
Each Wednesday morning from 10:00am until noon the volunteers make sure the food pantry is open to accommodate those in need of food. According to volunteer Sharon Bohm it’s been happening for at least fifteen years. Another volunteer, Donna Brown, said that though the number varies from week to week, sometimes as many as 30 people visit the food pantry in one morning. That adds up to a lot of people helped by the food pantry over the many years that it’s been operating.
Besides non-perishable items like canned vegetables, fruit, peanut butter, soups and cereals, fresh meats, milk and bread can also be found at the pantry. During the growing season, many area gardeners donate their surplus vegetables, always a big hit with the clients. Often toiletries, dishwashing liquid and other cleaning supplies are available.
Anyone in need is welcome to come to the pantry, but there is a limit of two visits a month for each individual/family. Because there are limits on the amount of food each client can take, volunteers help them with their choices.
“The only requirement to use the pantry,” Bohm explained, “is that you live in Eudora. Everyone must produce either a rent receipt or a utility bill that shows their home address. This is extremely important because all of our financing comes from right here in Eudora.”
The support comes in many ways: businesses, teachers, churches and individuals give generously to the organization. There are even children who have birthday parties and tell their friends to bring non-perishable items for the food pantry instead of gifts.
Bohm added, “Eudora is such a giving, giving community. Everyone is so supportive of what we’re doing.”
Brown said that many of those who visit the food pantry are the elderly on fixed incomes, but there are also younger people who have lost their jobs and need some temporary assistance.
The volunteers are always looking for donations, which can be dropped off at the church during food pantry hours or at Gene’s Heartland Foods (1401 Church St.) where Mary Beem from the Eudora Baptist Church has set up a barrel to collect donations. Besides non-perishable items of every kind, cash donations are also very important so that the volunteers can purchase the perishable items each week. Checks can be sent to the Eudora Food Pantry at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ (738 Church St.) or to volunteer Sue Neustifter at 1601 Elm St. The group makes good use of any funds they receive.
“Two ladies spend hours going through coupons to help stretch the money,” explained Bohm. “And if any of us see a bargain, we pick it up and then get reimbursed through the fund. We are always looking for good deals to make the money go further.”
Sue Neustifter, who heads up the program, wants to thank all the citizens of Eudora for their generous contributions, and the volunteers who work so hard. She said that an easy way to support the effort to feed the hungry in Eudora is to visit City Hall and request that an extra $5 or $10 be added to their utility bill each month. That money will go directly to the food pantry fund.
The dedicated group of volunteers— Mary Ann Stewart, Jane Marconette, Jane Massey, Louis Box and Rita Strahl along with Brown, Bohm and Neustifter—enjoy their Wednesday mornings together and feel like they’re doing an important service.
“They’re the most wonderful group of people I’ve ever worked with,” said Sharon Bohm.
Five year volunteer Donna Brown added, “I just feel like I’m helping the community a little.”
I’d say that they’re helping more than just a little. So if you see these folks around town, give them a big thank you (and maybe even a hug) on behalf of all the people in Eudora whom they have faithfully served through the years.