The amount of people seeking help from local food pantries is growing faster than donations to cover the demand.
Catholic Charities West Virginia, located on Randolph Avenue in Elkins, has experienced a large increase in the past six months in the number of families and individuals seeking assistance.
"We help feed more than 300 families, representing 900 individuals per month," said Regional Director Cindy Hammer. "This represents a large increase in our monthly need."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Most food pantries around the area are facing fewer donations than normal while the amount of clients requesting help grows. Teresa Wymer, left, case manager and outreach coordinator for Catholic Charities, and Cindy Hammer, regional director for Catholic Charities, are shown here at the pantry in Elkins.
Hammer said the amount of food donations has suffered a huge decrease.
"Due to the poor economy, we are not receiving as many food donations as are needed to fill the need," Hammer said. "We are also less food from local businesses as well."
Teresa Wymer, case manager with Catholic Charities, said monthly food donations have decreased by more than 2,000 pounds following the closure of the Food Lion grocery store in Elkins. She also said local supermarkets have been donating less since the June 29 storm and power outage.
"We are grateful for all of the donations we receive and want to thank everyone for their help," Hammer said. "While donations are down, we are just devising ways to share the food that are equitable and fair."
Pauline Gower of the Randolph County Salvation Army said she believes the higher price of food and unemployment in the area are causing the decrease in food donations.
"People are spending their money on food, and it is costing them more," she said.
Gower said the Salvation Army in Elkins is only open on Tuesdays, but she has noticed an increase in the amount of those asking for help. The Salvation Army recently distributed school supplies including paper, pencils, crayons, markers, notebooks, pens and colored pencils to area children.
Paul Carver of New Directions Church food bank is open from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays. The agency has been helping about the same amount of families each month, somewhere around 200.
"Mountaineer Food Bank gives us 30 cases of chicken legs and thighs a month along with canned vegetables," Carver said. "We also receive donations from the Church of Living Waters and Shop and Save."
Even though it has not experienced a decrease in donations, Carver said that those who come to the food bank could benefit from some additional donations.
"We could use donations of paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and personal care items," he said.
Belinda Toms, executive director for Tyrand Cooperative Ministries near Mill Creek, said she believes the increase in those in need began way before the June 29 storm.
"We have been adding 20 more clients every month since the first of the year," Toms said. "Also, our donations are down."
Toms said the poor economy and business closings have tricked down to other things.
"People have an increased amount they are paying for their old needs, and they are unable to help out others," she said.
Tyrand Cooperative Ministries is in need of more volunteers.
"We also appreciate working appliances and furniture," Toms said. "We also take donations of items that we can sell on eBay to raise funds to purchase items to help others."
Carolyn Tenney, a volunteer with Crosslines in Buckhannon, said the June 29 storm and subsequent power outages put the agency's food pantry supplies at extremely low levels.
"For a couple of weeks, we were in critical condition," she said. "Everyone who had lost all their food came in for some."
Tenney said Crosslines has been on the road to recovery, but could always use more donations.
"We're doing better," she said. "We have recovered somewhat through donations."
Leaders with the Haven of Hope Church in Barbour County decided to donate their supply of meat to a soup kitchen in Fairmont in the days following the June 29 storm rather than having it go to waste.
"We had a bunch of meat, and they were able to use it all," the Rev. Benita Swick said.
She said food for the church's pantry comes from Mountaineer Food Bank, and monetary donations can be used to purchase food from local grocery stores.
"We've been doing OK, except Mountaineer Food Bank has been kind of low on (meat)," Swick said.
She said someone donated $500 "out of the blue," after hearing of their large meat donation to Fairmont's soup kitchen.
"We were able to get quite a bit of food to bless the community, which is pretty awesome," Swick said.
Donations of food, money or other items anyone is willing to give are accepted.
Those wishing to donate funding can do so by mailing a check to P.O. Box 886, Philippi, WV 26416, or by calling 304-823-3428 for more information.
Other food pantries in Barbour County include Heart and Hand House Inc. at 304-457-1295, and The Church of the Nazarene at 304-823-1472. The Church of the Nazarene also served as a shelter following the storm.
- Staff Writers John Wickline and Melissa Toothman contributed to this article.