Hope Food Pantry gives in abundance - Republic-Times | News

Hope Food Pantry gives in abundance

By on June 28, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Pictured, Juan Richey holds her niece, Payton Cowsert, in front of one of the new coolers the pantry received last year.

The Hope Food Pantry continues to maintain a strong reputation for generosity, giving food and personal products to upwards of 150 families every two weeks.

“We give in abundance,” Hope Food Pantry director Juan Richey told the Republic-Times.

The pantry offers canned goods, meats, produce and personal products ranging from shampoo to deodorant, toilet paper, toothbrushes and more. Richey has served as director for two years and is amazed by the community donations.

“We go to Sun Basket on Wednesdays and get six to eight pallets stacked full of food. And the pallets are (as high as an eight-foot ceiling),” she explained.

Sun Basket — a California-based distributor of organic and healthy foods — recently moved into the Rock City business development in the Valmeyer bluffs. Admiral Parkway Inc. leases storage space in the caves to food service companies.

Donations also come in regularly from KFC/Taco Bell, Schnucks, Walmart and Little Caesar’s Pizza. Many volunteers also donate a significant portion of their time to helping run the pantry.

“(Payton Cowsert) is our youngest volunteer,” Richey said, showing off her 2-year-old niece. “She’s our mascot. She does so much here. She knows where everything goes.”

Richey said a lot of young kids volunteer, though maybe not as young and adorable as Payton. People will also sometimes come for the food and stay for the opportunity to volunteer.

“I was getting food (when I started volunteering) and I lived in Belleville at the time,” volunteer Dale Robert concurred.

“I’m just the type of guy to help anybody.”

Robert, who has volunteered with the pantry for seven years, serves as a driver for deliveries and pickups. Other volunteers help stock shelves or track the inventory.

“We are always in need of more volunteers,” Richey added.

The pantry won’t turn away donations of personal products, especially toilet paper, Richey said. Donation drop-offs can be made between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“It gets a little slower with donations and picks up with people coming in because school is out and people are needing more meals,” she said as a reason to donate this summer.

Those in need of the service, which is available only to Monroe County residents, must bring a photo ID and proof of residency. Hope Food Pantry is available for services from 12 to 2 p.m. on the first and third Fridays of the month.

Emergency assistance is available outside of regular hours, Richey said. She added that home deliveries can be made to current clients who have a doctor’s note verifying they are homebound.

Recent additions to the pantry include two new double-sided coolers awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to Richey, the USDA scores food pantries based on health codes, building safety and other aspects and granted the coolers to Hope Food Pantry last year because of its high scores.

“We knew we had a good score because a top score is 68 and we had surpassed that,” she said.

For more information on the pantry, such as making a donation or picking up food or other necessities, call 939-9085.

Hope Food Pantry is located at 9273 Coach Stop Road in Columbia.

“We have expanded recently. Now we have so much stuff coming in that we have a (Morning Fresh) service where clients can come in and shop for as much produce as they want,” Richey added.

Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years. email:sean@republictimes.net