Dedication keeps doors open

Crew of volunteers makes sure food bank shelves are stocked

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One woman reviews the form in front of her and calls out "package one." Partially hidden by a partition, two others quickly begin work. One pulls out a box, and the other starts gathering food from the shelves. Together, they fill the box with eggs, butter, rice and other staples -- enough to feed one person for about a week.

In an hour, an average of 22 orders will leave the Interfaith Food Bank. In the three hours a week the food bank is open, nearly 70 pounds of food leave its doors.

Although the food bank receives donations of items that puzzle some volunteers -- including anchovies in once case -- they say they'll take anything. Someone will find a use for it, volunteers say.

"We've been able to use everything," food bank volunteer 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."

People can pick up food three times a year -- no questions asked. If residents need the food bank more than three times in a year, they must apply to the organization's board.

Making sure the shelves are stocked, enough food is available and that doors are open from 11 a.m. to noon every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, is a crew of 24 committed volunteers.

"They do a good job. I feel very privileged to work with them," United Way Director Corrie Scott said.

Moffat County United Way is the food bank's biggest supporter, contributing $16,000 to the organization in 2005.

Funding and community donations aside, Scott said, it's unlikely that the food bank could have served 3,402 people last year without the commitment of several dedicated women. Three of those women have given a combined 41 years of service to the food bank. They are:

Helen Loyd

Helen Loyd hasn't been idle during the 57 years she's lived in Craig. One of the founding members of Moffat County's League of Women Voters and the first woman to serve on the Craig City Council, Loyd has long had a reputation as someone who gets things done.

And she still does.

Becoming a volunteer at the Interfaith Food Bank was such a subtle transition that she said she hardly remembers when it happened. But she guesses it was more than 10 years ago.

"It's something that's very needed here," she said. "It think it's a very worthy thing."

Although she can't recall why she joined, she said she has good reasons for staying.

"You don't want people to be hungry if we can help," she said. "I won't give this up until I have to."

The 82-year-old volunteer works one day every week to distribute food, and she helps unpack food and stock shelves whenever needed.

"It's very fulfilling because the community is so generous," she said.

Loyd said there's been more than one occasion that she's given a box of food to a woman who is so grateful that there are tears in her eyes.

"It just makes me cry to think about it," she said. "People tell me, 'You just can't believe how much this means to me.'"

Loyd is also an avid bridge player. She meets with friends at least twice a week to play. In some weeks, it's more often.

"I do play a lot of bridge -- probably more than I should," she said laughing. "It's a fun time. We need young people to come and learn."

Loyd move to Craig from Burlington in 1948. Her husband heard there was a dry cleaning business for sale.

The couple opened Loyds Cleaners, which is in business today under different ownership.

"After we got here we fell in love with the West Slope," Loyd said. "We've loved it ever since."

Claudean Talkington

Claudean Talkington moved to Craig in 1944 and graduated five years later from Craig High School.

Later, her husband's job took her to Moffat County's most rural areas.

"I enjoyed every bit of it," she said. "These big cities aren't cut out for raising kids."

With no TV and a "party line" telephone, Talkington filled her time learning bookkeeping by correspondence, she said.

When she moved to Craig permanently, the owner of Gearhart Industries told her he was desperate for a bookkeeper. What she didn't learn from the correspondence course, she picked up on the job.

Leaving Gearhart Industries didn't get Talkington out of bookkeeping. She continued to help friends and businesses with their finances.

Like Gearhart Industries, Interfaith Food Bank volunteers approached Talkington because they were desperate for a treasurer.

Fifteen years later, they won't let her go.

"I'd be willing to let someone else try," Talkington said. "I'd go back to just stocking shelves, but they won't let me."

Talkington has remained a food bank volunteer not only because of how she feels when helping others, she said, but because of the people with whom she volunteers.

"It's a good bunch of girls, and they all work so hard," she said.

Talkington said the job always is rewarding but never so much as when people with children arrive to collect food.

"It makes you feel so good that you can help them," she said.

When she's not keeping the food bank's books in order or stopping by Pizza Hut at 7:45 a.m. to pick up food donations, Talkington likes to read books and solve crossword puzzles, she said.

The 74-year-old volunteer also helps "the senior ladies" pay bills and balance their checkbooks. In the summer time, she pulls out her weed eater and sets to work grooming nearly her entire neighborhood.

Betty Kawchack

Betty Kawchack, 77, said volunteering at the food bank gives her something to do.

"I enjoy it, and it gives me a reason to get up and get going," she said.

She's been going for 16 years, working one day a week at the food bank and spending a good amount of time looking for the best deal on the food she's charged with purchasing.

The food bank accepts donations of non-perishable food, so Kawchack turns cash donations into eggs, margarine and meat.

"I've about got it figured out what works most times," she said. "This modern stuff isn't the same as it used to be at the grocery stores."

Store clerks know that when Kawchack approaches bearing 400 to 600 cans, the savvy shopper knows exactly how much the load will cost.

"If it's a pretty good sale, I try to get quite a bit," she said.

Kawchack was born in Craig.

She remembers clearly the Great Depression, which helps her empathize with the food bank's clients. Her family had a ranch and was able to raise most of its food. Without the ranch, she said, she doesn't know how her family would have survived.

Kawchack was the oldest of three children and took care of her younger sisters. She was the family cook until she was old enough to help herd sheep.

Learning to stretch a meal and cook from scratch is a skill she said she thinks would benefit many of the food bank's clients, but it's being lost in a fast-food world, she said.

Kawchack said it would be nice to have a younger generation of volunteers at the food bank. But said it's been difficult to get younger people to commit and be dependable.

The food bank has several volunteers it can count on, but Kawchack doesn't know how long many will be able to continue, including her.

Her daughter is a caretaker for the elderly, and Kawchack tells her, "Get good at it. You never know when you're mom will need it."

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