Every year, the week before Christmas, volunteers from Pantry Partners and the Back Country Horsemen gather at St. Mary’s Family Center in Stevensville to make Christmas brighter for many families in the north valley. In addition, several students from Stevensville and Florence were also volunteers.
They gathered to put the Christmas food boxes together. People who are clients at Pantry Partners sign up for these special holiday boxes. They indicate the size of the household which ranges from one person to a family of nine. Of the 281 boxes assembled last week, about 200 of the boxes go to families with children.
Karen Sanchez, board chairman of Pantry Partners, said that this year was the first time ever that all of the turkeys and hams were donated. Usually Pantry Partners has to buy some to fill out the boxes. In addition to a ham or turkey, there are canned goods, carrots, onions, celery, a dessert, and almost everything needed to cook a Christmas dinner.
Sanchez said that almost two-thirds of the non-perishable items came from direct donations at Super 1 Foods. Not to be outdone, Burnt Fork Market also donated hundreds of bags of goods for the boxes, about $2,000 worth. Stevensville students brought in 4,585 pounds of food for the Pantry last week and even put it all away.
The number of boxes going to clients is down this year, which is exciting to Sanchez and the volunteers. Over the past year, Pantry Partners has provided emergency food boxes to 2,865 households from north of Victor Crossing to Florence. There are 8,402 individuals living in these households. The majority of these came only once or twice to the Pantry. Others have needed food assistance six or more times. The Pantry serves an average of 221 households each month. They have distributed over 181,000 pounds of food in 2018.
“We couldn’t do this without the community members who make sure our families have what they need to celebrate Christmas,” said Sanchez.