It seems there's no end to the towering stacks of canned food reaching halfway to the ceiling at Craig's Inter-Faith food bank.
Donations of $9,000 in cash and 11,000 pounds of food this holiday season have boosted the group's efforts to provide needy residents with the allotted three food baskets
But the enormity of recent donations isn't as excessive as the numbers may suggest. An increase of applications for the services, coupled with a growing need for food assistance, could easily deplete current food stocks in a few short months, said food bank volunteers.
"This year we were hit pretty hard," said Claudean Palkington, treasurer and bookkeeper for the food bank.
"When I first saw how many applications we had this year, I thought, 'Whoa,'" she said. "I had to count them a second time to make sure."
This year the agency served 577 families. That number may be up about 50 percent from last year, though those figures haven't yet been verified, Palkington said.
The food bank provided food baskets to 271 people on Thanksgiving and almost as many on Christmas.
The effects of a depressed economy and more people entering the area may account for the growing need for supplement food assistance said President Judy Proctor.
Also, residents with three chances a year to receive food baskets are trying to use up their third chance at food help before beginning the cycle again in the new year.
Despite the abundance of food filling up the back room at the food bank, the generosity of seasonal givers is necessary more than once a year, said volunteer Barbara Baker.
"I think it's important that people help out during the holidays, but people are hungry all year 'round," she said. "It's wonderful to see people being so generous because we need it, but I think they forget about it the rest of the year."
The food bank benefits from canned food drives initiated by students in Moffat County Schools, workers at the Craig post office and other groups throughout the year.
Last year, the nonprofit agency received quarterly payments of $3,500 from United Way, its main funding source. However the group plans to apply for more United Way dollars in 2004 to meet the growing demand, Palkington said.
The food bank also accepts food and cash donations during the year from a variety of sources.
Proctor said an influx of food requests is keeping the all-volunteer staff busy. Calls to the group with headquarters in the Shadow Mountain Clubhouse are lately overflowing.
"We used to get calls just on open days of Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Now we get them the whole week," she said. "We are seeing more people. It may not be more than four months until all the food that's there is gone."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.