Neighbor to Neighbor feeding the needy

October 16, 2012

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

The variables among those falling through the cracks of food insecurity are many.

The folks who operate the Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry at 1640 Highland Ave. in Portsmouth say seniors, 60 and older, make up fully a third of those in need. But many of those seniors now have their children moving back in with them, or they are raising their grandchildren.

“Of the 2,600 seniors (served), 671 of them had children or grandchildren in their homes,” Bonnie Mullins, treasurer, said. “About a year ago we saw there was always a line down the street, and we had our elderly standing in line. So we decided to have our seniors call ahead of time, so they can come in and pick their food up. That has really worked out well.”

The Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry served groceries to around 6,500 area families in 2011. That was a total of almost 19,000 people.

“We gave 215,000 pounds of food out last year,” Dan Mullins, director of the food pantry said. “We average between 600 and 700 families a month. We also have a site in Minford and a site in Franklin Furnace.”

One of the largest fundraisers for the food pantry is their Fourth Annual Dinner Show “Bountiful Blessings,” which will be Nov. 17 from 6-8 p.m. at the Portsmouth Welcome Center, 342 Second St. in Portsmouth.

“We’re having Lee Ann Bower who is a featured gospel artist, and Barbara Duncan, known as the ‘drama queen for the king.’ She does plays based on scripture. She is very funny,” Chairman Jess Strickland said. “Also performing from our church (Central Baptist) is Amanda Klaiber, Michelle Strickland, and our gospel quartet.”

Strickland said the dinner will be catered by a local caterer. The price of admission is a $25 donation. Ticket information is available at 740-353-2842 or 740-352-1431.

“We strictly operate on donations,” Strickland said. “Everybody that works here is a volunteer. No one is paid. So this is real important for us to try to get the word out so people will attend this show, because it is one of our major fundraisers to buy food for the needy.”

Strickland said area businesses are being asked to purchase a table for the night of the show, and to pass out tickets to their employees. So far, Fluor B&W, Fifth/Third Bank, Desco Federal Credit Union, have purchased tables by donating $300 each.

“That helps pay for the food that we’re going to have for the Dinner Show,” Strickland said. “It costs around $1,000 just for the food. We’re anticipating at least a hundred people to attend the show.”

Neighbor to Neighbor also sells pies for Thanksgiving to raise money. This year pies are $11 each, or $10 each if you buy two or more.

“We work on a very small budget,” Strickland said. “We’re also in need of a truck. So if anyone has a box truck they could donate, we would really appreciate it.”

Dan Mullins said there will be a can drive the first Saturday in December, where residents can drive through at Central Baptist Church, drop off cans, and go around their circular driveway and back out.

“The cans from the Free Store Food Bank, which are not free, are getting really scarce to buy,” Dan Mullins said.

Mullins said food is given out the second and third Thursday’s of every month.

“The first of the give-outs is on the second Thursday, and runs from 1:30-5:30 p.m.,” Mullins said. “The third Thursday is from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.. I thought we would do that because some of the working poor can’t make it here during the regular give-out.”

Another service provided by Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry is the acceptance of applications for the Dollar Energy Fund through AEP, which pays electric bills that are at disconnect or shut-off status. Again, information is available by calling either of the two numbers. That program runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 each year.

“This is my favorite thing to do,” Bonnie Mullins said. “It takes from half a day to a day to get an answer”

“One more thing,” Dan Mullins said, leaning on the kitchen range. “We always have our soup kitchen when we are here. Folks can just walk in and warm up with a nice bowl of soup.”

Volunteers Debbie Penix (potato fryer), Anna Montgomery, and Joanna Tackett get ready for another busy day of dividing up the canned goods from the basement and the produce from the cooler, in anticipation of the arrival of folks who are very appreciative of this great source of food for the needy in the community.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com