With demand up and donations down, local food and clothing banks are hungry for assistance. The holiday season is always rough for charities looking to fill the need of area families with holiday food boxes and warm clothing. With the economy on a hiatus this season, people have less to give and need for more.
Food and clothing banks around the Rim Country report as much as a 36 percent increase in demand compared to the same time last year, while incoming donations remain around the same.
“I used to come to work at 1 p.m., and when we opened, five or six people were waiting outside, yesterday, 25 to 30 people were standing at the front door,” said St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank manager Wayne Parent. “It has been a recent thing in the last couple of months with more people losing their jobs.”
The Payson food bank distributed enough food in October to feed around 1,881 people. Parent reported that is a 25 percent increase in demand over last year.
“Usually we were doing about 1,300 to 1,200,” Parent said. “But due to the economy, the last two months have been heavier. So far we have been able to handle the increase.”
The Payson food bank is not the only group experiencing hunger pains, the Pine-Strawberry Food and Clothing Bank is reporting nearly a 40 percent increase in demand and expects more families needing supplies in the upcoming months.
Parent said being a mountain community, jobs tend to dry up in the winter months forcing the unemployed and underemployed to seek out charities, like the food bank to make ends meet.
“There are not the same jobs as in the summer,” Parent said. “In the winter we are busier than the summer because there is less work in construction.”
The Association of Arizona Food Banks reports a 20 percent increase in new clients across the state at food banks, but a 0 percent to 2 percent decrease in donations compared to the same time last year.
Parent said the Payson community has always donated enough to fulfill any demand.
“In the last several days the Latter-day Saints brought in 240 pounds of food and the United Methodist, 225 pounds,” he said. “That usually continues through the holidays.”
Last year, local schools donated 5,000 pounds of food and Parent said he expects the same this year.
The food bank also receives food from the government and buys food from the St. Vincent food bank in Phoenix at a nominal price of $1,000 for 12 pallets of food. But the cost of buying food from outside agencies is soaring with the increased cost in fuel.
Last year, food from the Phoenix food bank cost $700, or 30 percent less.
“The fuel costs are strapping us a little bit,” he said.
But the combination of different sources levels out donations and cost.
“We couldn’t do what we are doing if we did not get the support. Everyone is a volunteer here,” Parent said. “We just depend on the good will of the community.”
Although Parent expects enough donations to get through the holidays, he said food boxes are smaller than three months ago.
“The amount of food given out is smaller because we have to spread it around,” he said.
The Payson food bank is expecting to hand out 250 food boxes containing everything needed for a Thanksgiving Day feast Nov. 25, or Turkey Tuesday. Pine-Strawberry Food Bank expects to hand out 65 baskets.
“Sometimes I worry if we will have enough, but people will come through and every year it is truly amazing to me because I never know if it is going to come together, but it always does,” Parent said.
Pine-Strawberry Food Bank
The Pine-Strawberry Food Bank also relies on the generosity of the community, businesses and residents.
The food bank needs canned fruit and food donations.
“We used to average around 45 families, we had 61 last Tuesday, and for a small town, that is quite a bit more,” said volunteer coordinator Sue Montgomery. “We did not run out, but we had to change things around.”
To receive food from Pine-Strawberry you must bring proof of earnings and cannot visit both food banks.
The Payson Church of Christ recently held its third annual winter clothes giveaway and provided clothes to nearly 350 people.
The clothing bank offers clothes year-round to anyone.
“Donations are down a little bit compared to the previous two years, but we can’t complain about donations,” said Rowena Marrs, chairperson of the clothing bank. “There is definitely an increase in need.”
During the first giveaway in 2005, around 300 showed up and nearly 17 percent more came in this year.
“People are very thankful about what they are getting,” Marrs said. “A lot of families come and we run out of children’s clothes first.”
The clothing, like the food bank, clothes and feeds anyone, no questions asked.
“If you’re here and you’re hungry, we are going to help you,” Parent said.
The food bank always needs volunteers; the only qualification is a background check.
“You don’t even have to be Christian,” Parent said.
To help, call the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank at (928) 474-9104 or Pine-Strawberry Food Bank at (928) 476-4647.
Food boxes are distributed Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m.
Food is distributed to the needy by the Pine-Strawberry Food Bank the first Tuesday of each month.
You can also drop your donations off at the Pine or Strawberry fire stations, post office, library or thrift shop.
Organizations giving this Thanksgiving
The following organizations are hosting various fund-raisers or handing out feasts to fill everyone’s belly this Thanksgiving.
Payson Center for Success
Adopted two families from the Time Out Shelter and will provide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for both.
Students will hand out all the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast Tuesday or Wednesday, said Principal Kathe Ketchem.
“This has been an annual event for several years,” Ketchem said. “The students are very involved in it.”
Payson Elks Lodge #2154
The lodge is offering a free community Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 3 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 27 at 1206 N. Beeline Highway. Free tickets are available at the Payson and Pine senior centers, libraries, chamber of commerce and Elks Lodge. DJ Craig will provide music and entertainment.
Homebound residents will have dinners delivered Thursday by volunteers. More volunteers are needed for dinner and clean up.
For more information, call (928) 474-2572.
Birds on Bikes
Birds on Bikes will meet at 9 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 22 in the Safeway parking lot to deliver 20 Thanksgiving meals to families. Safeway is donating the turkeys and Payson Mixed Martial Arts will buy the fixings and side dishes, as well as sharing safety tips.
Also offered are balloons for kids and T-shirts.