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What do you buy a guy turning 85?

SPRING VALLEY – The family of Fred Penick, Ladd, planned to celebrate his upcoming 85th birthday with a surprise party and invited lots of friends and family. Their concern was gifts – what do you buy a guy turning 85? Fred has everything he needs, and if he doesn’t, he goes and buys it. His children and wife knew they must make a decision about gifts, for guests were bound to bring a present.

With this is mind, Fred’s wife, Shirley (Hermann), and two children decided to ask all invited to bring a gift of food in honor of Fred ... for the Hall Township Food Pantry. Earlier this month, Fred proudly dropped off 433 pounds of food for his neighbors in need. The load was particularly appreciated as the pantry is currently struggling to keep food on the shelves. This is normal during summer months when numbers increase and donations greatly decrease.

“We are in crisis mode at our pantry,” said Director Jan Martin. “This happens each summer – for a couple of reasons. First, with students home from school, parents are in greater need of food. Some parents who were able to meet needs during the school year, now find themselves visiting the pantry. Secondly, our inventory decreases when there isn’t a ‘giving’ holiday for food collection. All pantries are facing these same challenges. Happy Birthday, Fred Penick – because of you, we continue to feed the hungry!”

Geri Gillan, also of Ladd, had the same idea. In celebration of her 50th birthday on June 25, Geri planned a birthday bash with friends and family. She, too, didn’t need gifts, so selected a few charities to benefit by asking friends to donate to them. The pantry received 44 pounds of food – plus $170 to purchase more needed food. Martin said this is particularly beneficial, for pantries are able to purchase food from the local food bank at a reduced rate.

“Cash donations are always gleefully accepted!” she said.

Age has nothing to do with giving goodness when it comes to generosity. Nine-year-old Elizabeth Wenzel of Ladd invited friends to celebrate her birthday and asked that they bring a gift ... for kids who need food. She delivered nearly 50 pounds of food to the pantry and helped stock the shelves with her donations.

“What a lesson she has learned, proving that it is never too early to teach children the importance of helping others,” Martin said.

Martin said people don’t need a party to collect food.

“Next time you have reason to gather, think of your neighbors in need and put out a food collection box,” she said. “Each donation, no matter the size, is greatly appreciated.”

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