By Konstantine Fekos
WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP —
Volunteers and board members of the Centers for Family Services invited the public to the relocated Meadville Food Pantry and Warehouse to showcase their new facilities and give locals thorough insight as to how operations work in the realm of feeding families.
Maria Firkaly and other CFS personnel led guests on an informational tour at an open house Wednesday afternoon, taking them through the packaging and storage areas, and providing information on the organization’s seven countywide food pantries in Saegertown, Cambridge Springs, Titusville, Conneaut Lake, Jamestown, Springboro and, of course, Meadville.
“Meadville relies heavily on volunteers and community service workers,” Firkaly said, introducing several volunteers and showing different sizes of food boxes they pack and ship. “We serve, on average, over 3,000 adults and children a month in Crawford County.”
Previously located in the former Talon building, 632 Arch St., Meadville, CFS administrators relied on their volunteers yet again for the arduous task of moving walk-in refrigeration equipment along with other necessities to their new food pantry on 1099 Morgan Village Road, the property of Evolution Molding Solutions Inc.
“It’s such a wonderful space,” said CFS Supervisor Shawnel Lee. “The landlords are wonderful to put forth so much effort to make this work for them and us.”
CFS shut its doors only for one day before reopening on Nov. 19 to continue serving the county at large.
While dedicated volunteerism ensured a smooth transition between locations, CFS food pantries still face their share of hardships.
“Our program has been cut by about $60,000 in the last four years,” said Firkaly, showing records of $162,150 in State Food Purchase Program funding in 2007/2008 and $101,339 in 2012/2013. “The number of families needing assistance is increasing and, in a financial crisis, some families have to make a choice between their rent or mortgage and food. Then they come to us.”
Therefore, the Meadville Food Pantry relies not only on its helping hands, but also on local donations outside of its state and federal food allowance. U.S. Department of Agriculture grants as well as donations from local businesses and national franchises help CFS fill in the gaps, although the struggle to feed families for a month continues.
“We receive frequent donations from Sperry’s Egg Farm, Sheetz, Red Lobster and Wal-Mart,” Firkaly said, also recognizing the monetary help that comes in from area businesses. “We try to keep our donated dollars local and support community business owners as much as possible.”
Approximately 65 community members got to see the shelves to which community dollars contribute, as they toured the donated food, staging and warehouse areas, where just about everything from pastas to pastries are stacked by boxes and cans.
“We’re glad to see the public’s support and interest,” said Lee.
Representatives from Meadville’s Chamber of Commerce, including President and Chief Executive Officer Kathleen Bishop, attended the pantry’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, expressing thanks and support on behalf of the greater Meadville area.
“The crew of volunteers was instrumental in making this move a smooth transition,” said Linda Bennett, CFS executive director, who believes the CFS’ collective personnel turned the pantry’s relocation challenge into a positive opportunity.
The Meadville Food Pantry operates from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, excluding holidays, taking in an estimated 99 percent of the county’s state and federal food allowance. Titusville receives its own order.
“We’re still looking for someone to take over the Springboro food pantry,” said Lee, describing the need for one volunteer to lead the satellite’s organizational duties. “We’re very grateful for the satellites we have. For one place to cover the whole county would be almost impossible.”
Area residents wishing to receive aid from CFS can contact the food pantry at (814) 337-8450. Potential consumers must show proof of identification and residency as well as fill out necessary paperwork with a self-declaration of income. Those applying must be at or below 150 percent of the poverty level to qualify.
You can help
Center for Family Services is looking for a volunteer to lead its Springboro food pantry. Anyone wishing to help can call (814) 337-8450.
The organization’s seven countywide food pantries are in Saegertown, Cambridge Springs, Titusville, Conneaut Lake, Jamestown, Springboro and Meadville.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.