Niles Salvation Army seeking community help

NILES — The food pantry shelves at the Niles Salvation Army are looking sparse, after an increase in need from Berrien and Cass County families.

To continue to help those who face food insecurity, the charity is seeking donations from the community to help bolster supplies so that they continue to help families in need.

Niles Salvation Army Lt. Joseph Hixenbaugh said the food pantry demand seemed to increase, starting late last year into February.

“We have just seen an increase in people needing assistance and so we can try to keep the shelves stocked, but we will need the community’s help,” Hixenbaugh said. “We are seeing more people come [to the pantry] than in years past.”

According to Hixenbaugh, from October to December of last year, the food pantry provided groceries for 252 families, or about 650 people. From January to Feb. 8, the food pantry provided food for 115 families, or about 290 people.

While the need has increased, the pantry has not received a large donation since December. Hixenbaugh said the pantry typically does not receive many of donations at this time of year. The pantry is entirely donations-based, though a contingency fund is available for emergency use.

Officials with the charity try not to touch this fund until the summer, when the need for food donations can grow dire, Hixenbaugh said.

Families in need of assistance can visit the Niles Salvation Army to register for help. They are required to bring a valid state identification or driver’s license, as well as social security cards for the members of their household, though the office can suggest alternative documents if they do not have them.

Applicants will receive a week’s worth of groceries based on the size of their family. They can pick up food donations up to four times each year.

“Anybody can come in and talk with the social services department to get help,” Hixenbaugh said.

Hixenbaugh estimated that the pantry has about three to six weeks worth of food left before they might have to dip into its emergency funding. He said the pantry began running low at the beginning of the year.

The charity put out a calling on Facebook asking for donations earlier this week. Some members of the Niles community have already stepped up to help out.

A couple bags of food were donated to support the cause.

Monetary or food donations can be dropped during the Niles Salvation Army’s office hours between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Hixenbaugh assured that while supplies may be running low, anyone who needs access to food will still be able to get help.

“We are not going to run out of food,” Hixenbaugh said. “The sergeant will always assure that those shelves are stocked.”

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