SMALL TOWN, BIG NEED: South Whitley sees exponential growth in the need for food

SOUTH WHITLEY – South Whitley has operated a food bank for more than 20 years. In that time, the need for the food bank has grown. According to Co-Director Tonya Warner, the numbers grow each week.“We feed about 80 to 100 people a month, but we’ve been adding two to four new families each week,” said Warner. “The need is growing as the price of gas, electricity and other things continue to rise.”Warner, along with Mark and Michelle Pratt run the South Whitley Area Emergency Food Bank.Warner said many of the clients relying on the food bank are having to choose between paying for living expenses, such as utility bills, or putting food on their tables.The food bank serves families and individuals that reside in South Whitley and has no income restrictions for those wanting to utilize the service. Items offered to food bank clients include canned goods, fresh vegetables, boxed items, nonperishable staples as well as meat. For milk, clients receive a $5 gift card to Dollar General. “We have a lot of support from churches and people in the area that care,” said Warner. “When I got here today there was an envelope stuck in the door. When I opened the envelope, there was an unsigned card that had 10, $100 bills inside. It’s people like that who care and they really want to be a part of helping people. The clients are so appreciative, gracious and don’t abuse the system.”Warner had previously served as board president, but when Butcher announced she was stepping down, Warner knew the food bank had to keep going.“I denied it for a while. With a lot of stuff going on, I just didn’t know about taking the food bank over,” Warner said. “But losing the food bank and the support it offers the clients was something I couldn’t let happen. The Pratts said they would help. We work well together and we’ve settled in.“As the holiday season arrives, the food bank will give out holiday baskets that include hams or turkeys as well as toys at Christmas time. But donations are needed to make that happen.An extension of the pantry is Tabitha’s Closet. This closet offers hygiene items, some household items as well as toys for children.“We need new toys for the kids. The other things we need for Tabitha’s Closet are hats and gloves as well as smaller- sized diapers and hygiene items that will make good stocking stuffers,” said Warner.She also said Tabitha’s Closet is not in the need of coats due to the lack of storage and man power to handle the bulky items.For those wanting to donate food items, the food bank will accept nonperishable items. Warner said they will also accept toilet paper, pet items, shampoo and deodorant. Monetary donations are always welcome.Donated items can be brought to the South Whitley Area Emergency Food Pantry, 105 E. Market St., South Whitley, each Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to 11 a.m. Warner said, “If those times don’t work, we will gladly meet anyone here at any time or they can drop stuff off at Star Bank. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to give.” For those wanting to give back, money and food donations are not the only way to help the food bank.“If someone doesn’t have the money, but they have time, we can have them help with a fundraiser or volunteer in some way,” said Warner.“That is what we are hoping to grow. Community support from more churches, organizations and residents,” Warner said. “We are hoping more people will agree to hold collections for us on a regular basis.”“We are continually asking for help. We know that. But we want to give a huge ‘thank you’ for what the community continues to do,” said Warner. “We couldn’t do it without them. The clients are so appreciative of what we can do through the food pantry.”For more information on the South Whitley Area Emergency Food Bank, contact Warner at 248-1537 or the Pratts at 403-7908.