The Area Rotary met in a regular meeting on Tuesday, December 6th at Toni’s Restaurant in Benld. Kenny Cordum, who runs the local food pantry, gave information about the in and outs of the every day business at the food pantry.
Cordum was a few minutes late to the meeting because the pantry just got a truck of food delivered on the morning of December 6. The truck contained 6,000 pounds of groceries and from the truck load, the pantry was able to serve 42 families from 11:00am to noon.
The Gillespie Caring Center serves local residents and rests behind Shepard’s Closet in downtown Gillespie at 100 South Macoupin. The pantry, which is only about 730 square feet, operates by volunteers and does not pay any labor expenses whatsoever.
A few months prior, the pantry eyed purchasing the Knights of Columbus building in East Gillespie. “But after it got full of mold, we did not do it,” Cordum expressed, “I would like to build a new building to accommodate all of our needs.”
The pantry gets their money from donations, food drives, and government commodities. The pantry has never turned anyone down since the food they receive is free. Most of their guidelines are set by the government.
“We have people that donate every month and some that donate just around the holidays,” Cordum said of the donators, “We always get by, but we can always use more.”
Cordum went on to say that if you want to donate, money is the best thing for the Caring Center because he can purchase more food with the donation than anyone would be able to buy at Walmart, Randy’s Market, or any general store.
The Caring Center expects to receive cans from the food drive that National Honor Society is running presently. Boxes can be found around town at numerous locations including Ageless, Randy’s Market, and Macoupin Family Practice Center.
Cordum goes to Operation Food Search in St. Louis and Illinois Food Banks in Springfield to get their food for the pantry. Since February of this year, Cordum has added an additional stop and once a month he travels to Bloomington to the Midwest Food Bank.
The food is free at both the Operation Food Search and Midwest Food Bank, but the Caring Center has to pay $0.20 per pound of food at Illinois Food Banks. The commodities that are brought to the Caring Center by truck are free and delivery is also free.
12 different drivers drive for the local pantry and stops include stops like Pizza Hut, Dierbergs, and even Schnucks. If a driver has to use their own vehicle, they are reimbursed for their gas. During one year, the pantry travels about 12,000 miles while the average fuel cost for the year varies from $2,400 to $3,400.
The only drawback at the food pantry is they never know what they will get and how much of it and their space is very limited for frozen foods. “Some months it works out and we have a ton of food,” Cordum said, “But sometimes we do not get as much and we have to give out less. It always works out though.”
On Tuesday, the pantry received 31 cases of chicken quarters and 14 cases of whole chickens. “It does not do any good to worry,” Cordum laughed, “Today we had 10 volunteers to help out today and 6 others to help separate the food.”
All the sales made at the Shepard’s Closet are used by the pantry to cover heating and food purchases. Sales from 2010 were $12,247 and through October of this year, Shepard’s Closet has profited $13,170.
In the month of December, everyone is given ham. $2,500 has been spent at Randy’s Market to purchase the hams and according to Cordum, this is one of the first years they have used a local business.
In 2004, the pantry served 1,940 families and the pantry expects to serve 4,400 during this year of 2011. The business is good and “if it was a private business, we would be doing fantastic.”
Last year, the pantry handed out $212,000 of food and this year the pantry forecasts about $230,000 to be given out. The pantry purchased $19,751 last year and so far to this date, the pantry has spent $21,834 for food and there will be more money spent by the end of the year.
The pantry expects to average 442 families this year as they are only open 3 hours twice a week.
The pantry serves about 90 families per week which breaks down to 2 families per minute. The most the pantry has served this year was 86 families in one day. On the day of the handouts, lines start forming at about 8:00am.
The pantry has received over $47,733 from the commodities which are delivered from the Food Bank in Springfield. “Next year, the commodities will be cut greatly due to the government,” Cordum noted.
Qualification at the Caring Center is based on income and members of the family. The base starts at $1,180 and with each additional family member, add $414. So, a family of 1 cannot make more than $1,180, a family of 2 cannot make more than $1,594, a family of 3 cannot make more than $2,008, and so forth.
The pantry has never turned anyone down and all applicants must fill out an application. To fill out an application, go to Shepard’s Closet and one of the volunteers will help sign you up and fill out all of the required paperwork or direct you to a pantry that is closer to your residence.