December 2017 | St. Louis Area Foodbank

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Pantry Spotlight: Affton Christian Food Pantry

The Affton Christian Food Pantry (ACFP) values the connections they make with their community.

 

“Relationships with people in need are sometimes as important as, if not more than, the food we can give them,” says Dana George, Pantry Manager at ACFP. Serving 100 families every week in the Affton community is no small task, but the staff takes time to know the people they serve. “For instance, I know that Charlotte will be sitting in the chair in the hallway at a quarter ‘til 9 for her 9:30 appointment,” Jennifer Meehan, Executive Director, says as she reflects on the individuals who come through her doors. Recognition like this is important to people like Trisha.

When Trisha and her husband fell on hard times, experiencing a double job loss about a year after their first child was born, they knew they needed help. “A couple very close friends had suggested, while we were job searching, to contact a local food pantry, and I did. And we probably ended up shopping there for six months. That was the best decision I ever made,” Trisha says. The food staples and baby supplies were helpful, but beyond that, Trisha found reassurance in the pantry staff. Trisha remembers, “I met with the service employee, and I remember it was this older gentleman, and it was very difficult for me to say ‘I don’t know what to do. I need help, and we need food.’ He just took my hand and was like, ‘Everything’s gonna be fine. We are here to help you.’ And I’ve always remembered that experience at that pantry.”

Trisha’s experience is what the people at ACFP strive for. Volunteers receive careful training, groceries are carefully organized to make it easy for people in need to access, and everybody is treated with respect. In December, ACFP hosts a Christmas Boutique – an event where some of their patrons get the only gift they’ll receive this season. Tammy Kutrip, a volunteer who helps organize the Christmas Boutique, witnesses the difference this pantry makes for people in her community. “I almost cried the other day. A lady came in and handed me a thank you card and said, ‘I got a job, and this is my last visit here. Thank you so much for everything.’,” Tammy says of a recent encounter she had with a patron. The staff at ACFP have every right to feel good about the difference they make in people’s lives, but they remain humble and grateful for their partnership with the Foodbank and their ability to serve over 8,000 people every year. Dana George says, “We’re thankful for you all because you make what we do possible.”

 

Learn more about AFCP on their website at afftonchristianfoodpantry.com.

Frank’s Farewell Letter

Our President and CEO, Frank Finnegan, has written many letters for our newsletter. His most recent letter was written for our December newsletter, and he shared a pretty big announcement for the Foodbank community.

In the spring of 1980 I was interviewing for a position with a social service agency in Phoenix, Arizona, trying to convince the woman on the other side of the table that I was the best candidate.

I must have said something right because I got the job, but I don’t remember much about the actual interview other than being mesmerized by the woman sitting across the table.

Over the years I’ve used this space to write about the milestones of my life: my daughter growing up, my father playing baseball, and Sunday night family dinners. I’ve told stories of my annual visits to Kansas and of my wife’s grandparents who homesteaded a farm and lived through the dust bowl. I have enjoyed the great privilege of sharing my work and life with you, and now as I look forward to new and exciting chapters still ahead, I have just one final milestone to share with you here.

I have announced to the Foodbank’s Board of Directors that I am retiring, telling them that leading this organization has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I have been blessed in so many ways, among them spending my working years doing something I believe makes a real difference while working alongside talented people I respect and admire.

There are too many individuals to thank in this space, but I’d like to at least recognize some collectively: our staff members, already recognized by their leadership within the national food bank network for continually striving to improve; the Board of Directors for their guidance, counsel and commitment – being able to discuss the changing dynamics of the organization with the members of the Board all while learning from their experience and trusting in their support, is a gift I truly treasure; and of course, our volunteers and donors, the lifeblood that allows us to do the work that remains so important for people in need.

Last but never least, I want to thank the woman on the other side of table – my wife, Judy. She hired me in 1980, believed in me, and eventually agreed to travel through life by my side, making it richer and more fulfilling than I ever imagined that day so many years ago. As I have for the last 36 years, I’ll continue to share my story and my life with a woman I still find completely mesmerizing.

I’m also confident that the next person to lead the Foodbank will take the organization to heights I haven’t yet imagined.

As always, thanks for your support and trust.
– Frank

Feeding Hope in Williamson County

Last month, one of our Agency Relations Coordinators, Melanie Hager, was able to go above and beyond for a woman in need in Williamson County, Illinois. Below she shares her story.

I was at Williamson County Programs on Aging conducting a CSFP training/meeting with our contact, MaryJane Fuller. She had just met with a woman and was very shook up after their meeting.

Mrs. Fuller had explained to me that the woman and her husband, 64, were living off of less than $600 a month, that they received through her disability benefit. She is disabled due to working in construction her whole life. Her husband is also disabled but has been denied the disability benefit on multiple occasions. This couple is barely surviving, eating only three meals a week because all of their income was going toward their utility bills and medication.

When the woman returned to the office to turn in her paperwork I asked if she was able to sit down and talk with me, she agreed and I had her reiterate her story.

After she was finished, I began spouting off all of the different programs that she would be eligible for: Soup Kitchens, Pantries, SNAP, CSFP, LIHEAP Energy Assistance, Medical Assistance, Temporary Cash and Social Security.

She was overwhelmed with the amount of information we were able to supply her with. She was not aware of all of these services or that you can begin collecting social security at 62, they were under the impression that it was 65.

We were then able to sign her and her husband up for the CSFP Senior Box Program, as well as SNAP, LIHEAP Energy Assistance, Medical Assistance, Temporary Cash, Prescription Assistance, Referred to Pantries and Soup Kitchens and even getting the ball rolling on Social Security Benefits.

She was in tears and full of gratitude. She hugged us both continuously and was extremely grateful for all of the services that we were able to provide her with. As tears fell from all of our eyes she thanked us for everything we had done. She did not realize that these services were provided, especially in a rural community. It was a beautiful moment to share this information with her and to show her that the Foodbank isn’t just about food. Connecting people to resources can change lives.

Days like this truly help me appreciate my job!