With a 20 percent drop in demand last month, the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank of Payson is finally seeing a respite after months of mounting need among Rim Country residents.
But organizers say they aren’t out of the woods yet, with numbers above average from the same time last year.
The food bank’s new manager, Michael Haynes, says just two weeks ago, they had 165 people show up on a Saturday and nearly 50 boxes of food were handed out.
“I hope it slows down again,” he said. “I think people went to the Valley to get away from the weather, but when it warms up, I think they will come back.”
While demand fluctuates, Haynes is resting a little easier these days knowing he has 52,000 pounds of food waiting for him in storage and $21,000 in the bank. The food and money was collected over a three-month period during the Payson Area Food Drive (PAFD).
As needed, PAFD organizers will release food and funds to St. Vincent and other area food banks.
So far, $6,000 has been given to St. Vincent to supplement food it receives from St. Vincent in the Valley and the federal government.
On average, Payson’s St. Vincent hands out 20,000 pounds of food a month to families and individuals. From the most impoverished to working professionals who saw their hours cut with the recession, St. Vincent helps all including those who need more than food, such as paying their bills.
Just a few weeks ago, Haynes even assisted a woman moving to a new home. Working alone, Haynes loaded the woman’s belongings into his own truck, moved them across town and unloaded them.
If he had a few volunteers, Haynes said the job could have taken only a few hours.
“We need more able bodies,” he said.
While the food bank recently recruited 21 new volunteers, it has a shortage of young volunteers.
Haynes himself started volunteering with St. Vincent at the age of 18. As he moved from Iowa to San Diego, Mesa and then Payson, Haynes said the one constant was St. Vincent. Wherever he went, he made sure to donate some of his time.
When Haynes moved to Payson three years ago, he met then-manager Wayne Parent and his wife Lee.
For the last year, Haynes, working alongside Parent, learned how to manage what Haynes calls St. Vincent’s little grocery store.
For the last 16 years, Parent has worked tirelessly at the food bank. Handling orders and donations, Parent kept the food bank stocked as it expanded its small distribution center from one room to several.
Through the years, Parent said he hoped someone would take over his position, but he “hadn’t found anyone I felt comfortable with.”
When Haynes, a tall cowboy, started donating his time, Parent felt he could finally leave and travel with Lee.
Although retired, Parent said he plans to continue volunteering.
For Haynes, he is just glad to have something positive to do with his time after retiring from John Deere.
And managing St. Vincent is a full-time job, with Haynes at the food bank five days a week for more than 40 hours. If he could add a bed, Haynes jokingly said he would sleep there.
“It surprises me that amount of people who show up, I thought with a small town it’d be lower,” he said. “I would like to see us open only two days, but demand is high.”
The St. Vincent food bank is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. For more information or to donate, call (928) 474-9104.