By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
Everybody loves to give during the holidays.
Now it’s time to give another gift.
The gift of love.
The Times West Virginian is kicking off its fifth annual Gift of Love food drive.
This is a way for the community to pull together and donate nonperishable food items to help established area food pantries restock their shelves, which are often depleted by this time of year.
From today through Feb. 13, nonperishable food items may be brought to the Times office during regular business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday). Cash or check donations will also be gladly accepted.
Food will be distributed to participating food pantries on Feb. 14 … the ultimate Day of Love.
“I’ve never needed these kinds of services. However, any given day, any one of us could be in need,” said Times publisher Chuck Jessup.
“It’s nice to know that Marion County is fulfilling those needs on a daily basis. This just confirms the idea that our community pulls together when needs arise. I am even prouder to say that I am a Marion Countian.”
Times managing editor Misty Poe said the goal for this year is to raise $10,000. Last year’s goal was $5,000 with $13,000 actually raised. That money was put to very good use.
“We used this money to purchase needed staples for food pantries across the county. I’m not surprised how the community has supported the Gift of Love food drive,” she said. “They always respond to the needs of its members.
“We’re hoping that individuals, businesses, service and community groups, and schools will be as involved as possible with the Gift of Love.
“We plan to highlight major contributors with stories and photos.”
The drive was started five years ago.
“This is a very long period of time until the end of winter,” Poe said.
“Food pantries become bare.
“People are so giving during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. But their generous donations are quickly used by local food pantries. This is a way to restock their shelves.”
Nonperishable items such as protein-rich foods (such as peanut butter, dried and canned beans, and canned meat), dried pastas, and canned fruits, vegetables and soups are always needed, she said.
“The monetary donations help these go further. We buy needed staples in bulk from in-county stores, often at a discount.”
Only food items are being collected, she added, not toiletries, hygiene or cleaning products.
“We are a community newspaper,” Poe said. “We are the stewards of the community. We know things are difficult for many families since the start of the recession in 2008.
“There is so much talk about entitlement programs that we may have become jaded to the needs of others. We don’t necessarily understand that so many working families are one or two paychecks away from being homeless.
“Many seniors must choose between paying for groceries or often high-priced medicines.
“And not everyone in need is enrolled in an assistance program.”
Pantries that were helped by the Gift of Love include Central United Methodist, the Soup Opera, Union Mission, Shepherd’s Love Food Pantry, Mannington Food Pantry, Our Father’s Breadbasket, Fairmont-Marion County Food Pantry, Salvation Army and Teverbaugh.
For more information, contact Misty Poe at 304-367-2523 or email@example.com.
Even the donation of a box of cereal can help, said Shelia Tennant, director of the Soup Opera.
“We can take that and divide it up for two families to have a bowl for breakfast.
“Give what you can. We can take that and add to what we have and will get.
“Every little bit helps. Our food supplies go down very quickly. We serve about 119 lunches here every day. We also give out emergency food orders to 200 or more families a month. So our shelves deplete fast.”
The Give of Love helped them “tremendously” last year, she said.
There are many ways the community can help.
Individuals are encouraged to bring boxes or bags of canned goods or nonperishable food items to the Times West Virginian’s business office at 300 Quincy St. Items will be collected Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Thursday, Feb. 13.
Businesses, schools or offices may set up satellite donation locations to collect items through Thursday, Feb. 13.
Times West Virginian representatives can even come and pick up all items collected.
Community service organizations, schools, school programs, churches or civic groups may take this on as a project. Anything collected will be picked up to be distributed.
For more information on the Gift of Love, call the Times West Virginian’s newsroom at 304-367-2540.
Email Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.