Food pantries gear up for Thanksgiving meal distribution, By Nancy Kriz MONROE - Gail Dejmal has 70 turkeys in her freezer and they are all earmarked for the Thanksgiving tables of 70 area families. As coordinator for the Monroe Presbyterian Food Pantry on Stage Road, Dejmal and her volunteers are readying food baskets stuffed with the fixings to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday. Over the next days, the 70 families who requested those baskets will pick up a prepared meal they otherwise couldn’t afford to make. Dejmal knows the smiles of gratitude she will see are only temporary; the Thanksgiving baskets won’t take away the troubles those in financial need have. In the area, there’s more than a dozen food pantries just like the Presbyterian pantry that are just as busy. And by the end of this weekend, those pantries’ shelves will be close to bare. Donors make it happen “Are we busy?” said Dejmal. “Are you kidding? Thanksgiving comes and goes, but we feed all the time.” With donations from all kinds of groups, including the Restaurant Tavern Owners Association (which donates turkeys) and Girl and Boy Scout troops who collect and donate canned goods, the Presbyterian food pantry is in good shape to help those in need for next week’s holiday. Just as those in need are thankful for the food items, Dejmal is thankful to donors who make giving out those food items possible. “We have a list with 70 requests,” said Dejmal. “It is a lot. I’ve been doing this for five, six years and back then it was about 30. A lot of people who never had a need to ask for food in the past are asking. The economy has a lot to do with it.” There will always be those on public assistance, or who receive food stamps, who will continue to regularly come to the food pantry for help, Dejmal noted, and her group is always happy to help them. New people But now, there is a new set of regular clients. “We’re dealing with people who have lost their jobs and now they’re coming to the food pantry for food,” she said. “We’ve never seen that in the past. It’s scary.” One of Dejmal’s goals is to give people privacy and dignity when they come to the Presbyterian food pantry. “They come in and select what they know their family will eat, versus us giving them particular items,” she said. “We close the door and let them do this. They sign in privately. Some people literally have no food at home. What we give them is all they will have.” There’s one other thing Dejmal wanted to remind the community regarding food pantry donations. “As grateful as we are for all these donations for Thanksgiving and Christmas - and we are truly grateful,” she added, “come January and February, the need is still there.”
As grateful as we are for all these donations for Thanksgiving and Christmas - and we are truly grateful, come January and February, the need is still there.” Gail Dejmal, coordinator for the Monroe Presbyterian Food Pantry
Can you help? If you or your group, organization or scout troop can help provide items or monetary contributions to assist any of these area food pantries, call the numbers listed and make an offer of assistance.