By Meghan Keating, Communications Intern
Last Wednesday I visited St. Stephen’s Food Pantry in Wilmington. St. Stephen’s is one of the many partner organizations that receive food from the Food Bank for the public. My ultimate task was to document the visit by taking pictures of volunteers in action as well as squeezing in some interviews here and there. I accomplished these tasks, but the people that I met on my visit were really the highlight of the experience. To say that these people are wonderful is truly an understatement.
St. Stephen’s Food Pantry is a service provided by LCS (Lutheran Community Services) and last year alone LCS served more than 100,000 people (duplicated) through multiple programs throughout the state.
Sandy Betley , LCS Program Director, said that the food pantry often sees people who are not the “stereotypical” food pantry client.
She told me:
“Since 2006 the nature of the client has changed dramatically. We see people who have worked at the same job for 17 years; they’ve been downsized, their company has been outsourced. We have families all the time now. Families who earned two incomes have gone to one income, people who work two part-time jobs or a full-time job and a part-time job. It’s just not enough to make ends meet. The wages that people are getting don’t meet their expenses. We are encountering people who are embarrassed, ashamed and assuring us and themselves that they’ve never had to do anything like this before – they’ve always been helping others. The climate has really changed.
Betley says that while the community has been incredibly generous with donations, the increase in demand does not keep up with the donation. Without food from the Food Bank of Delaware, LCS would not be able to run its multiple operations, she said.
While visiting at St. Stephen’s, I also had the opportunity to speak with two clients, Annie and Richard. Both have been receiving food from the pantry for the past few years. Annie and Richard commended St. Stephen’s for all of the wonderful work it does for the community. Richard stated that he gets a great sense of satisfaction from the fact that the volunteers at the pantry want to be there and want to help. He started utilizing the pantry when he had to leave his job from a local financial institution in order to care for his ill wife. As a result of not working, his house was foreclosed. Both Annie and Richard said they don’t know what the community would do without the wonderful assistance of St. Stephen’s.
LCS’ programs are volunteer-driven. St. Stephen’s alone sees more than 300 volunteers every month. There is a strong sense of a “volunteer community,” according to Volunteer Coordinator Cher Frampton.
Frampton is the first person to fill the Volunteer Coordinator position at St. Stephen’s and is already enhancing the volunteer program by creating what she calls “volunteer success stories” from various volunteers who come to the pantry. Whether they need a job, or just a little push to come out of their shell, Frampton makes it her goal to see it happen.
In addition to Frampton, I also spoke to Peter Buttenheim, who is one of the head volunteers at St. Stephen’s. Peter, who is also a regular volunteer at the Food Bank, began serving the community at an early age, and stated that a sense of service was instilled in him by his father as a boy. After retiring in 2008 from the Sanford School, he wanted to continue serving his community and started volunteering at St. Stephen’s two days a week. Peter said his favorite aspects of volunteering at the food pantry are the people, and stated that he always has “Insta Moments” of gratification on a daily basis just by watching them work and “do good” for the community. His two biggest mottos gained from his volunteer experience are “giving back” and paying forward,” which he says are important things to remember.
I’m so glad that I got to visit the food pantry at St. Stephen’s and witnessed firsthand all of the wonderful work they are doing for the community of Wilmington.