Upshur food pantry needs help

The Upshur County Shares Food Pantry in downtown Gilmer is seeking more volunteers to serve a growing number of needy individuals seeking help.
The pantry recently held a small gathering of community leaders and others at the Silver Alley Event Center to explain its work, its needs, and its plans for building a new $150,000 home near the First Methodist Church.
In a written statement, Mel Small, who heads the pantry, said the operation was helping about 300 families monthly at the start of 2022, but that the number leaped to more than 400 by year’s end and to about 600 in 2023.
Located on Buffalo Street, one half block west of the Upshur County Courthouse, the pantry is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Anyone wishing to volunteer or contribute to it can come by during that time, and its mailing address is P.O. Box 281, Gilmer 75644.
Rick Lively, a volunteer at the pantry who read Small’s statement to the recent meeting, expressed concern that current volunteers range in age from 75 to well into their 80s.
Said Small’s statement, “Many of us have been around a long time and realized we will need to bring in and train new volunteers, iincluding our replacements, as some of us are approaching the point where we may no longer be able to perform the services we have been performing.”
The statement said that in addition to needing volunteers and a new location, the 501.c.3 charitable organization is concerned about “the increase in cost of food for distribution”–a 20-30% rise.
“East Texas Food Bank (in Tyler) is doing a good job on holding down the cost on what we purchase from them,” Small said. Whatever the Tyler operation purchases for 54 cents a pound from the United States Department of Agriculture, it sells to pantries for only 19 cents a pound, he noted.
“So where food drives are nice, cash raised and used to purchase food through East Texas Food Bank is a much more effective way of obtaining needed supplies,” Small added.
He also said that Walmart (which will furnish volunteers at certain times) “has helped us with contributions of considerable amounts of food that were approaching (their) expiration (date.)” In the last two years, though, its contributions, once 2,000-3,000 pounds weekly, have dropped to 500-800 pounds.
“This was most likely due to more people buying food from Walmart instead of eating out as much,” said Small. Added Lively, when presenting Small’s statement, “They’re (the public) buying Walmart (food) almost to the walls.”:
Brookshire’s supermarket chain and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have also contributed to the Gilmer pantry, which is supported by community-minded organizations, businesses and private citizens, Small wrote. Contributions are tax deductible.

– By Phillip Williams


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