Gayville and Volin residents are pitching in to organize and in some cases reaping the benefits of the mobile food pantry that was initiated there this past November.
One of the pantry organizers, Barbara Egbert, wife of Gayville Lutheran Church pastor Ralph Egbert, said the pantry has been put together in a simple way to make it easy for volunteers to help address basic needs of the Gayville-Volin community.
"We bought 12 very large clear plastic containers with snap-on lids that hold the food," Egbert said. "Each container has a label on it to identify what types of food it holds. We distribute food one Saturday morning from 10 to 12 in each community. We just load the food into the car and take it to the distribution location and people can come in and pick up what they need."
Currently, the mobile pantry organizers are making use of their personal cars to transport the food because there are currently no funds to cover maintenance of a car or van. A temporary storage area has been organized at Ebert's church, however she said a permanent location is being prepared in Volin.
"We've done some fund raising to help pay for the food," Egbert said. "We've also had donations from private persons. I'm in the process of applying for commodities from the State of South Dakota. We can obtain those supplies for a minimal shipping and handling fee. That would ensure a consistent supply of food in the pantry."
Plans and some funding for the Gayville-Volin food pantry have developed from a larger project the two communities are involved in, South Dakota Horizons. The Horizons project is a joint effort of South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service and Northwest Area Foundation. Housing, business development and community recreational opportunities are among the other areas the Horizons committee have worked with in the Gayville-Volin area.
In addition to the food pantry, Egbert said the community plans to expand on a community garden and organize efforts to make excess garden produce available to anyone who is willing to pick it up.
"The school in Gayville developed a community garden before the Horizons project was ever initiated," Egbert said. "We worked with school officials over the summer to further develop the garden, too. We've also organized a Bounty Table that will be held over summer. Gardeners can bring their excess produce to the event and people in the community can come in and pick it up."
The Christmas blizzard and recent arctic blast that kept children home from school may have put added strain on some households that depend on school meals to help with the family grocery budget. Egbert said families with children were among those who were recipients of food products in January.
"It's surprising to me that people are hesitant to ask for help," Egbert said. "They take pride in being able to support their family, which is good. But this is a resource we hope people will not hesitate to use. Making sure everyone has the food they need is something our communities want to participate in. We want to help families find a way to obtain the help they need and at the same time maintain their dignity. I know it's a resource that's very much appreciated."
Community support for the pantry has been very strong from the start. Volin resident Marie Flemming, her husband Chuck and Gayville businessman Greg Pirak have all been instrumental in making food pantry plans a reality. All have been involved in purchasing, sorting and organizing food storage bins. Other volunteers assisting with the project include Julie Weiland, Paula Marshall, Larry Buffington, Jenny Rice and Ella Hirock.
"We couldn't have made the project a success without the help of numerous sponsors," Egbert said. "We've received assistance from both the Gayville and Volin Post Office, Gayville's CorTrust Bank, and the Gayville-Volin American Legion."
Other sponsors for the food pantry project include the Gayville-Volin School and three local churches: Gayville, Bergen and First United Lutheran.
"People in the community really want to help with this project," Egbert said. "Our response has been immediate and very generous. We all know these are difficult economic times. There are probably people experiencing budget difficulties now that never had that kind of problem before. Sharing what we have is a basic Christian response to need — instruction from God, if you will. And I think people here are very willing to get involved in this project."
More information about the food pantry and distribution dates, times and locations is available by calling 605-267-4336 (Gayville) and 605-267-0197 (Volin.)