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Wilt: The community makes it possible

WALNUT — With the help of community donations, the Walnut Food Pantry continues to meet the needs of area families and individuals, according to Director Deanna Wilt.

The Walnut Food Pantry has served 52 households this year, which represents 188 individuals. Among that number are 82 children, under the age of 18, and four elderly persons, Wilt said, adding that number has remained fairly steady through the years, with some families and individuals leaving and others coming to need the food pantry.

In 2005, the food pantry served 46 households, representing 145 individuals. Among that number were 67 children and three elderly people.

The people using the food pantry are very appreciative of the service, Wilt said. Many of them are working but just not making enough to meet the needs of their families.

For now, the shelves at the food pantry are fairly well-stocked. There have been a number of recent donations, including those from the Girl Scouts, individuals and area churches. Also, the food pantry will get a donation again this year from the Bureau Valley North School, which has a canned goods collection each year in lieu of having a Christmas gift exchange, Wilt said.

“With everyone working together, we can help meet the needs of people in our community,” she said.

In addition to its community donations, the food pantry buys food through the Sauk Valley Food Bank in Sterling, which is supplied by the River Bend Food Bank in the Quad Cities. However, some items, like hygiene products and cleaning supplies, aren’t available through the food bank. For those items, the pantry will go to Sullivan’s Food store. Pantry treasurer Mary Jo Gothard watches the ads very carefully to get the best buys possible, Wilt said.

Frozen meats like hamburger, sausage and bacon are gotten from the Wyanet Locker. Also, some hunters will donate some deer meat to the pantry, again processed through the Wyanet Locker.

When a person comes to the pantry for the first time, he/she will be asked to fill out an information form, which includes how many people are in the household and also the birth dates of the children in the home. The women of the First United Methodist Church, which houses the food pantry, also gives birthday bags to families with children which contains the making for a birthday cake.

With each visit, patrons are given a shopping list, based upon the size of the family, and then they can shop the shelves according to the list. There is also a “choice area” with some extra items which people can choose. Each family or person can use the pantry once a month.

At Christmas time, the food pantry distributes Christmas baskets and is involved in a giving tree outreach. At Easter time, the food pantry provides gift certificates to Avanti Foods in Walnut.

Established in April 2005, the Walnut Food Pantry is a joint outreach effort of the churches in the Walnut Township areas. Open hours are from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursdays. To qualify for the services of the Walnut Food Pantry, persons must live within Walnut Township and have a financial need, Wilt said.

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