An Amazing Day: Project Hope

Thursday morning #2 and I had the privilege of helping out at Project Hope.  I had always wanted to do so, but my work schedule did not allow for Thursday mornings.  Since I’m taking a few weeks off, I decided we would help my friend Kathy take our church’s weekly donations to the food pantry.  Wow, what an experience!

Project Hope is at roughly 42/Ames, not a neighborhood all that familiar to me.  It is a food pantry, not a food bank, meaning that they prepare food items to distribute to those in need, usually local folks.  The donations of food and personal care were in my trunk.  I’d taken them home because the cart at church was overflowing.  #2 and I sorted, counted and rebagged the items.  Nearly 300 this week!

We followed Kathy to the center, loaded up the grocery carts, and hauled them in.  The director gave us the 3-step tour, and explained some things about the pantry.  I was saddened to see that the shelves were almost bare!  But volunteers were just getting started sorting donations and restocking shelves.  Shocking how quickly the donations go out the door, but awesome how many people they are able to help.

They do accept frozen donations!  However, I haven’t been suggesting them, since most of us make our donations to be held for some time before delivery.  Now that I know how to get there, and have some time to volunteer, I think I can deliver frozen goods myself on Thursdays.  I can certainly manage a few cubic feet of my freezer for deals I may not use, but others can.  So from now on, I will be suggesting the best frozen and meat deals, too.

Both Nash Finch and the Dean Fricke Food Pantry help supply Project HopeThat’s terrific!  Omaha is a distribution hub for Nash Finch, and the Omaha stores include Bag N Save, Avanza and newly-acquired No Frills.  Dean Fricke Memorial Episcopal Food Pantry at Trinity Episcopal Church donates the pantry bags.

They accept usable clothing, too, in various sizes.  I didn’t get details, but saw lots of items coming in for redistribution.

They get donations of food and clothing throughout the week, and on Thursdays they pick up pre-assembled “pantry bags” from a local church.  The roughly 100 pre-assembled bags are distributed to families, and include a designated amount of specific food items.  (Additional items are distributed as necessary.)  When those bags are gone, volunteers assemble more bags from the donated food items.  The director said that near the beginning of the month, they distribute about 100 per week, but toward the end of the month, it’s more like 100 per day.  Per day!  That’s about 1,000 bags per month, each with groceries for about a week.  Just the basics, too.

We could see the donations pouring in, and #2 and I decided to give an hour of our time to help sort.  I thought it was hard work; #2 thought not so much.  We opened bags and boxes full of foodstuffs, separated by type and size, and stocked the shelves.  There were very nice people there, some of whom did the sorting on auto pilot.  All kinds of people.  All trying to help others.  It was a great experience, and we’re going back.

And that’s what we’re here to do.  Help others.  Whether it’s making a donation of free or cheap items, or passing along outgrown clothing, or giving some down and dirty time, what we do to help others really does matter.  Why not contact your church, neighborhood association, or other organization, to arrange regular food pantry contributions?   You can contact Project Hope for donation times and requirements.

Give It Back! is an occasional series on CheapThrillsInOmaha.com about caring for others in our community.  This effort really helps others in the local community.  “There but for the grace of God go I.”

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