Metro-East News

Metro-east residents give big as holiday season begins

Area residents didn’t need an excuse to share their generosity on Giving Tuesday — they had already given overwhelmingly in the past few months, according to the co-director of a local food pantry.

“The people of Belleville, I’m telling you, they’re so kind,” said Michael Foppe, co-director of the Community Interfaith Food Pantry.

The pantry was bustling with volunteers, customers and donors during open hours Tuesday morning.

“On a good day, it’s chaos,” said Foppe, who will take over as director of the pantry in January.

Three months ago, the pantry was running low on supplies, so Foppe and other organizers appealed to area residents for help. Thanks to a food drive organized by the Boy Scouts of the Lewis & Clark Council, the shelves were stocked once again, not to mention an influx of roughly $30,000 in donations. Donations from businesses like Aldi’s, Schnucks, Shop ‘n Save, St. Louis Bread Co. and Target are also essential, Foppe said.

As the holiday season approaches, families are looking to resources like the pantry to help fill in the gaps. Dawn Page, 53, of Belleville said she visited the pantry on Tuesday for supplies to bake Christmas cookies for her family. She said she hasn’t visited the pantry in about a year, but she came up a little bit short this month.

Laurette Argie and her husband say they know that feeling. Argie was at the pantry Tuesday donating chicken and cereal. She said she and her husband were clients at the pantry during a “rough patch” last year.

“We donate whenever we can. It helps people that can’t afford it, and it makes you feel so good,” Argie said.

The pantry’s services wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the volunteers, however. The co-director says “there’s not one paid person here.” At least five volunteers give their time at the pantry on open days, though that number goes up during the holiday season, Foppe said.

Debbie Thacker, a retired elementary music teacher, says she has volunteered at the pantry for about a year and a half.

“I decided to give back, and I enjoy this because it’s not just about me. I know I’m helping people,” Thacker said.

To donate, volunteer or seek assistance from the pantry, call 618-355-9199. The pantry is open from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesday and Saturday.

For a list of local charities, visit the News-Democrat’s Blessed to Give page.

Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis

The Community Interfaith Food Pantry by the numbers

  • Handed out approximately 2,200 paper bags full of groceries in November
  • Serves approximately 650 families monthly
  • Receives approximately 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of food from local grocery stores and restaurants monthly
  • Gives out 160 to 200 gallons of milk per month
  • Spends $6,500 per month on groceries to supplement donations
  • Roughly 10 area churches help support the pantry.
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