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Bobby Spanjer and Mike Scruggs, two HOPE (Helping Other People Effectively) in Lancaster volunteers, love stocking staples on shelves at agency’s food pantry but earlier this week, there was nothing to stock.
Late Monday evening, Aug. 4, Bekah Clawson, HOPE’s executive director, made an urgent trip to Bi-Lo to purchase canned goods for pantry shelves which were critically low, she said.
“Folks are not slowing down, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday it was slammed in here,” she said. “We;re using our (financial) donations to buy food but as fast as I can get it here, it’s gone. We’ve got a lot of green beans but folks can’t live on green beans alone.”
Clawson shared the statistics for the number of people HOPE has helped in just the past three months.
In May the number was 473, in June, 515 and in July, 523.
“In June, we had 30,000 pounds of food but in July, we had only 8,000 pounds compared to last July when we had 17,000 pounds,” she said. “We appreciate our retail partners who give breads and sweets but we're low on canned goods.”
Clawson said over the past year, financial donations have also decreased.
From June through August 2013, donations were $34,578 but from June through August 2014 donations were $11,667. This was a financial drop of more than $22,000.
“Summer is really a lean time in general,” Clawson said. “Folks are on vacation and they have other things on their mind but HOPE needs the community to know we need help.”
HOPE has a project, “Healthy Food Initiative,” which helps people in crisis to have a healthy diet.
“We’re giving out literature on canned beans and canned meats that are healthy but then we don’t have those items to give to the public,” Clawson said.
The concerns don’t end with Clawson and the HOPE staff. Its volunteers are just as worried.
Spanjer, a resident of Indian Land, has volunteered at HOPE for the past five years. He is part of the group of volunteers who live at Sun City Carolina Lakes and often bring down the donations made by Publix.
He enjoys packing bags of food and taking it in a cart to people who need the help, but this week, Spanjer has mostly folded empty plastic bags while waiting for more food to arrive.
“Normally, we’re really busy, we deliver food to people who drive up,” he said. “They need food and when we have it, we have a full buggy for them.”
Scruggs and his wife, Pat, have volunteered at HOPE for seven years, he said.
Pat Scruggs verifies client information on those who come there for assistance and he helps pack and deliver food to their cars. The Lancaster couple volunteers at HOPE for the emotional benefits they receive, Scruggs said.
“Volunteering has its own rewards,” he said. “A smile and a hug is all you need.”
Clawson said canned goods which are given out by HOPE volunteers are a “real staple.”
The shelves consist of beans, corn, tomatoes, carrots and canned meats and peanut butter and jelly.
“Until I went to the store Monday night we had no peanut butter and jelly,” she said. “In May, the post office did their food drive and that’s why our supply was high but that food is completely gone. We're thankful for our partners and we want them to know we need more canned food and canned meats.”
Canned food donations can be dropped off at HOPE in Lancaster, 2008 Pageland Highway, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or contact Clawson at (803) 286-4673.
Contact reporter Denyse Clark at (803) 283-1152