Interfaith Food Bank needs volunteers

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Volunteers at the food bank don't always know what to do with some of the unique items that are donated, but they're always grateful to have them.

As the holiday giving season kicks off with school and business canned food drives, volunteers at the Interfaith Food Bank say all they need -- besides food -- is people to help put it away.

On Monday, Craig Middle School students dropped off 5,233 cans and more than $600, and more keeps pouring in.

Though sometimes the food bank does get some items volunteers wonder about -- including anchovies in one instance -- they say they'll take anything, and someone will find a use for it.

"We've been able to use everything," food bank President Judy Proctor said. "We have a need for food year round. Anything anybody brings, we'll take and we'll use. I don't know that you can have too much. We have a lot of people who depend on us."

Interfaith Food Bank approved 849 applications for assistance through October, feeding 2,960 people.

"It's a very good organization," Proctor said. "We help a lot of people."

One woman, who asked that her name not be used, said the food bank always has been there when she's hit bottom.

"They're a great help to us, I'm so glad they're here," she said.

She has two children, ages 5 and 7. She stopped by the food bank Monday because her boyfriend had lost his job, and she had not yet found a job.

"It really helps," she said. "This way, I don't have to spend rent money on food."

People can pick up food three times a year with no questions asked. After that, those in need must apply to the board.

Applications are used only to allow volunteers to track how many times a person has picked up food, not to determine need.

Proctor said that many times, people try to get food more times than are permissible.

"We're not a store, we're an emergency food bank," she said. "We don't want anyone to starve, but we have to be careful."

Also, people can get Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets that provide a full holiday meal -- with chicken as the main course.

The food bank will give away nearly 600 baskets this year, which is why holiday food drives are so important.

The food bank is run solely by a crew of nine to 12 volunteers.

"This is taking their time and this is done out of the goodness of their hearts," Proctor said.

Buyer Betty Jo Kawchack said in her years with the food bank, she has seen several beneficiaries of food bank services turn around and volunteer.

"One lady, every time she sees me says, 'I'll never forget you and what you did,'" Kawchack said.

Despite the number of people who volunteer their time, more are needed, especially when the fruits of a large food drive come in.

"We can always use more," Proctor said, "especially during food drives. We only have so much time to sort."

Its not only food that keeps the Interfaith Food Bank in business; cash donations are useful, too, including for paying rent at Shadow Mountain Clubhouse and buying food -- either to round out holiday baskets or for items that are perishable and can't be easily stored.

The Moffat County United Way contributes $16,000 a year to the food bank.

"If it weren't for United Way, we couldn't stay open," Talkington said.

"People are just real good here about helping out, and we really appreciate it."

Eighty-five percent of the Interfaith Food Bank's operating funds come from United Way.

One problem food bank volunteers face is their inability to communicate with the influx of Spanish-speaking families seeking food-bank services.

The food bank employs no translators, and Talkington said it's difficult to serve someone she can't understand and who doesn't understand her.

Talkington has volunteered at the food bank for 13 years.

"Some of these people, to help them just feels good," she said.

She said serving the elderly is something that gives her the best feeling.

"They're so proud, it's hard for them to ask for help, but there are so many of them in dire straits," she said.

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