United Faith Methodist Church offers help for the hungryFaith United Methodist Church is stepping into new territory next week. To fill an increased need for food, volunteers are organizing a lasagna dinner fundraiser from 4:30-7 p.m. May 17 at the church, 1531 Hughitt Ave. The proceeds will be split between the church’s food pantry and Meals Outreach Ministry (MOM).
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Faith United Methodist Church is stepping into new territory next week.
To fill an increased need for food, volunteers are organizing a lasagna dinner fundraiser from 4:30-7 p.m. May 17 at the church, 1531 Hughitt Ave. The proceeds will be split between the church’s food pantry and Meals Outreach Ministry (MOM).
Numbers are up at the pantry. Last fall, about 25 to 30 people stopped for help each Tuesday. Now more than 35 households seek help each week. In April, the church provided about 4,600 pounds of food for 357 individuals. Of those, 103 were children.
“We’re not going to turn anyone away but we have shortages in some areas,” said Don Johnson, co-coordinator of the food pantry. He boosts the weekly food offerings by driving up to Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank to pick up fresh produce and bread. But the pantry is low on frozen food, cereals, canned fruits and vegetables, and soups.
In addition, the church hosts community outreach meals the first and fifth Sunday of each month. The dinners are free and open to all.
“We try not only to fulfill their stomachs but also their souls and emotions,” said the church’s MOM coordinator Bonnie Thoorsell. The meal is served on tables decked with tablecloths and centerpieces. Those who attend are treated as guests and friends.
“I think it lifts their spirits,” Thoorsell said.
A turkey meal with all the trimmings was held April 29 at Faith United Methodist Church. They served about 150 guests on site and delivered meals for 180 people throughout the city. The church was, coordinators said, full to bursting.
“We could have done more, but we ran out of food,” Thoorsell said.
There is hope on the horizon. The 20th annual Letter Carrier’s Food Drive takes place Saturday, May 12. That day, letter carriers and volunteers will pick up bagged food donations along their routes.
“The postal drive will help immensely,” Johnson said. Last year, the event netted more than 32,000 pounds of food that was split between food shelves at Faith United Methodist Church, the Salvation Army of Superior and Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency. The food drive is needed more than ever this year.
“Food shelves are serving more people and they have less food,” said Lynnette Erickson, food drive coordinator for the Superior Post Office. “It’s satisfying that we can do something this big for the community and it stays right here.”
The event comes at a crucial time, Erickson said. Area children are about to start summer vacation and they won’t have access to school breakfast or lunch.
The influx of donations will bolster Superior food shelves for a few months.
“That’s our biggest donation of the year,” said Dori Stepan, food shelf coordinator for the Salvation Army. She estimated it would last through the end of July. According to case manager Della Rader, between 30 and 40 people stop by the food shelf each day. The food shelf is always low on some items, like cereal, macaroni and cheese and peanut butter.
Once the letter carrier food stores are gone, Johnson said, it will take about $1,000 a month to meet the current need for food at Faith United Methodist Church’s pantry. Some visitors are regulars, he said, but there have been new faces each month.
Like the outreach meals, the church pantry is about more than food.
“We’re open to people who need friendship, sustenance or spiritual sustenance,” Thoorsell said. “We are here to fill all those needs.”
Volunteers say they get a lift from helping others. For Garrison Souther, it’s a way to give back.
“People helped me at times in my life,” he said, and it’s his chance to help others.
Every Tuesday after she works at the church food pantry, Patty Guist goes home and cries at the need that’s out there. But each week she returns.
“I really enjoy doing what I do,” she said. “I enjoy helping people.”
There are plenty of ways for the community to help keep these food pantries stocked. The first is the Letter Carriers Food Drive. Nonperishable food should be bagged and ready for pick-up by 9 a.m. Along with letter carriers, a host of volunteers will be traveling throughout the area collecting the food.
Faith United Methodist Church hosts their homemade lasagna dinner, which includes salad, bread sticks and dessert, from 4:30-7 p.m. May 17. The cost is $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 12 and younger. Carry outs are available, and a silent auction and bake sale will take place during the meal at the church, 1531 Hughitt Ave.
Food shelf organizers at both the church and Salvation Army said they don’t turn anyone away. Rader encouraged anyone in need to stop by.
“People shouldn’t be scared to ask for help,” she said. “We’re here to help you.”
The food pantry at Faith United Methodist Church is open 4-6 p.m. every Tuesday. The Salvation Army food shelf is open 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 916 Hughitt Ave. The food pantry at Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency is open 1-3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at 1118 Tower Ave.