Pantries ask for unique items during holiday season

mcanty@vagazette.com
Pantries need things donors may not consider

— After Jennifer Buchanan pays rent and utilities, there's no money left for food.

Buchanan waited at FISH this week while its volunteers filled bags with pantry staples for her family. Her youngest boy, 2-year-old Dashton Hagen, played with toys and books in the organization's lobby in the Community Services building on Waller Mill Road.

"They help provide good, healthy food for my son," Buchanan said Wednesday. "It's very helpful for a single mother like me."

FISH volunteer Susan Voigt packed brown grocery bags for Buchanan's family with another volunteer. The food pantry served18 families Tuesday, after a busy day helping 31 families Monday.

Like many other Williamsburg, James City and northern York county residents, Buchanan relies on the pantry, which helps low-income and homeless men, women and children in the region. FISH and other area agencies continue to collect food and clothing, but find they need non-traditional items like toothpaste, sheets, new shoes and blankets as Christmas approaches.

Voigt said the pantry is flush with canned goods but needs things like new socks and underwear for children ages 3 and older. The organization needs coats, gloves and hats, as well as plates, pots, pans and bed linens for local families.

"Any donations people make here, stay here and help local families," Voigt said. "We're all volunteers, so any items or money we collect goes right back into FISH."

The food pantry and clothing closet relies on donations from the community to help others. When they don't have an item on-hand a family needs, they use donated gift cards or cash to purchase it, board members said.

Ray and Helen Scharfenberger retired to Williamsburg from Connecticut years ago. With more spare time, they decided to volunteer at FISH. Scharfenberger is proud of the all-volunteer organization.

From the clothes room where they repair and wash clothes before offering them to families, to the food pantry they try to keep stocked with food, FISH is fueled by generosity — from those who make donations and those who work there — Ray Scharfenberger said.

James City resident Nicole Washington looked through the FISH clothing selection for things for her child and a baby on the way. Washington said she's grateful to FISH and other agencies like it because they treat her with respect and assist her family with clothing they can't afford.

The Salvation Army, in Norge, is also preparing donations for Christmas. Maj. Karen Hasty said they also need items donors may not consider.

"We get lots of pancake mix, but no syrup to go with it," Hasty said. The same goes with peanut butter, which for some would be nice with some jelly or jam, she said.

Other items needed include: dry or canned milk, diapers and pull-ups for toddlers in all sizes, winter gloves, hats and scarves for men, women and children of all ages, Hasty said.

"We appreciate any donations people give, but we've found we are having more families who need these items," Hasty said. As always, the pantry and clothing depot accept items such as cereal, canned goods, bottled water, juices, toiletries, chunky soups and toothbrushes.

Hasty reminds people that as Christmas gets closer and the nights get colder, many people need basics like warm socks, sturdy shoes and coats.

"It's so important that we provide the basics so they can focus on other needs," Hasty said.

Both FISH and The Salvation Army collected food and clothing to help people for Thanksgiving but say their work continues as long as there's needy people in the region.

"Sometimes I get a lump in my throat when I'm able to see how much donations and the work we do helps the community," said Scharfenberger, as he walked through the FISH facility. "I feel privileged to be able to volunteer here."

Canty can be reached by phone at 757-247-4832.

How to donate

FISH

312 Waller Mill Road

Williamsburg, VA 23185

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. M-F

220-9379

The Salvation Army

151 Kristiansand Drive #109

Williamsburg, VA 23188

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. M-F

229-6651

The United Way

113 Palace Lane, Suite F

Williamsburg, VA 23185

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. M-F

253-2264

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