By Kim Turner, Communications Director
Working in an office setting most days, I don’t always see the direct impact that our organization has on so many in our community. As a provider of services to Delawareans through a network of 477 hunger-relief program partners, Food Bank office workers, like myself, don’t always see the faces that benefit directly from these important services. Two weeks ago I got out of the office and went to visit one of our largest providers of hunger-relief services, Greater Wilmington Adventist Community Services (GWACS).
GWACS distributes every Wednesday out of Ebenezer Baptist Church’s fellowship hall in Wilmington’s Northeast section. A team of dedicated volunteers, led by Richard Geer, provide food and clothing assistance to area residents each week.
Last month alone, the organization provided services to 1,469 individuals. Richard points out that the numbers are increasing, despite reports that our economy is improving. He says that about 50 percent of the households that visit the pantry receive monthly benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and any further decrease in benefits will be detrimental to the families served.
In the first hour of my visit, 75 households had already been served. As I talked with the volunteers, we were greeted with hellos and lots of thank yous as individuals walked along a table of items choosing the foods best suited for their household.
That particular day, visitors chose between a variety of canned goods, cereals, pastas and perishables such as bakery items, breads, fresh produce like tomatoes and apples and even hummus.
Ida Brown, a volunteer since the program’s beginning, happily distributed baked goods to families and also encouraged them to try hummus, “it’s a dip, and it’s good on crackers! You’ll like it.”
Most of the food for the weekly program comes directly from the Food Bank of Delaware. Ida along with Maddie Tyson visit the Food Bank each Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. to pick up the items needed for the Wednesday distribution. The ladies help out every Tuesday and Wednesday and rarely miss a day.
In addition to picking up from the Food Bank, Ida and Maddie along with Joseph Miller, the driver of their 17-foot U-Haul truck, pick up from Little Sisters of the Poor and BJs.
“Wherever there is a pickup we go and get it,” explains Ida. “We pack the U-Haul from top to bottom.”
Their Wednesdays begin at 6:00 a.m. so they can set up both the clothing and food distributions prior to the 9:00 a.m. start time. When I arrived at 8:45 a.m., families were already in line.
“The community would be hurt without these services,” says Ida. “The number has certainly increased in the past month. Each week we see new people.”
She points out some new visitors to me, “I think I have already seen 10 or 12 new people.”
As a member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church for 53 years, she has seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood. She explains that need for assistance has only increased during her time with the church.
Many of the individuals visiting the food pantry are seniors. Mary Taylor visits the pantry each week and says she would have a difficult time without GWACS.
“I sometimes cut back on food in order to get medicine,” she explains.
Between the assistance she receives from the food pantry and monthly SNAP benefits, she is thankful, but her budget is tight.
GWACS’ operation would not exist without volunteers.
“We are old and tired, but when we hear from visitors that what we do is a blessing, that makes the day,” says Ida.
Check out some pictures from my visit!