Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT Local Salvation Army volunteer Jim Mahler, right, explains that the wooden shelves in the food pantry used to be filled with thousands of pounds of food. Niles Salvation Army Social Service Director Jan Nowak listens.

Archived Story

Pantries are nearly bare

Published 12:05am Thursday, November 3, 2011

It looks like someone raided the Niles Salvation Army’s food pantry.
There are no cans of vegetables on the shelves, no jars of spaghetti sauce, no packets of macaroni and cheese — just empty boxes stacked haphazardly on top of each other on the wooden shelves.
It is a sight that makes five-year volunteer Jim Mahler sick to his stomach.
“This is the worst I have ever seen it,” he said.
The Niles Salvation Army’s largest pantry normally holds between 15,000 and 17,000 pounds of food ready to be packaged and distributed to local needy families.
Jan Nowak, the organization’s social services director, said on Tuesday morning they had 1,500 pounds of food.
“That’s a high estimate,” Nowak said, “and most of that came in over the weekend.”
Nowak said Tuesday that if they do not get any more food donations they would be “three days away from having to close the food pantry.”
That is bad news for the more than 100 local families that benefited from the organization’s food service in October.
Nowak said the downward spiral started three to four weeks ago when “donations stopped coming in” and the need “escalated dramatically.” Sixty-six percent of the people they serve are new to the program.
“There are a lot of people that are no longer getting cash assistance from the state and their unemployment is running out. Things are compounding,” she said.
Donations usually start picking up just before the holiday season, Nowak said, so she is hoping that will be the case this year.
“Every single time we get in dire straights, I just keep saying I know it will come,” she said. “I keep walking in that faith that if we are good stewards of the resources given to us and do service to our brothers and sisters right we will get what we need.”
People can help the Niles Salvation Army by donating non-expired, non-perishable food or by making a monetary donation. One hundred percent of what is donated stays in the community.
A list of donation sites and more information can be found at saniles.org.

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