Mary Pfalzgraff's heart is filled with gratitude -- not because the shelves at the Delta Food Pantry are full. They're actually quite the opposite. But Pfalzgraff, co-director of the Delta Food Pantry, is thankful for the community support that ensures the shelves don't stay empty for long.
Pfalzgraff manages the food pantry with co-director Karen Basher, but the work of feeding the needy in Delta County takes hundreds more volunteers and donors.
"We couldn't do it without the support of individuals, businesses and churches throughout the community," Pfalzgraff said. "Everyone giving a little makes the food pantry work."
The approaching holidays are a reminder that not everyone can afford to serve a lavish Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, much less provide a nutritious meal for their family day in and day out. That realization, combined with the spirit of holiday giving, spurs food drives, financial donations and volunteer sign-ups. All are needed to keep the food pantry's doors open.
The nonprofit food pantry is housed in a room off the alley behind St. Michael's Catholic Church, but is a community-based project and doesn't belong to just one church. The organization provides three days' worth of staples including meats, fresh produce, bakery goods, dairy products and a variety of non-perishables. Year to date, the food pantry has provided 36,000 meals, putting it on track to hit the mark of 45,000 meals provided in 2015.
Pfalzgraff talks about a recent day, when after handing out food to 11 different families, the food pantry's three refrigerators and two chest freezers were completely empty. "It was unnerving, to say the least," Pfalzgraff said, "and a reminder how much we depend on our community, church and business donations. You can imagine our pleasure when an hour later we received delivery of 270 pounds of meat, 900 pounds of produce, milk and baked goods -- not to mention the woman who brought us 14 dozen eggs!"
She was humbled again when Jami Taylor called to say Tayshen Automotive had expanded its annual food drive from one month to two. During the months of October and November, Tayshen Automotive deducted $1 from customer bills for every can of food contributed to the Delta Food Pantry -- with no limit. A customer with a $200 repair bill could cut their bill in half by bringing in four cases of soup.
And when the food pantry was in urgent need of volunteers, the members of St. Luke's Episcopal Church agreed to be responsible for Monday food pickups. Father Tom Seibert and his congregation provide drivers to load and deliver meat, produce, pizza and dairy products from community businesses including Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, Walmart and City Market. "They can unload as much as 1,600 pounds of food in a single day," Pfalzgraff said.
Other church members sort, bag, register and hand out the food.
Thursdays are another day Pfalzgraff and Basher never have to worry about, thanks to a longstanding partnership with the Altrusa Club of Delta.
Boxes and bags of food donations are occasionally left outside the food pantry door, and volunteers from a number of churches regularly gather up donations and drop them off. "These donations really brighten our day," Pfalzgraff said.
During the month of November, the Delta High School Student Council, Delta Police Department and Delta Food Pantry are teaming up for a food and toy drive.
DHS plans to organize various class competitions, as well as friendly rivalries with Delta Middle School, Lincoln, Garnet and others to collect as many food items and toys as possible.
At Bill Heddles Recreation Center, participants in a pickleball/racquetball tournament scheduled for Nov. 19 are asked to provide a turkey as their entrance fee. The recreation center is also hosting its annual Huff 'n Puff Before You Stuff on the eve of Thanksgiving. This fitness class is free to all who bring donations of non-perishable food items.
There are many more individuals, organizations, churches and businesses that support the Delta Food Pantry throughout the year. With everyone pitching in, Pfalzgraff said the Delta Food Pantry will be able to ensure no one goes hungry.
Food donations may be delivered to the Delta Food Pantry Monday-Friday mornings. Financial donations may be mailed to 1140 Howard Street, Delta, CO 81416. To sign up as a regular or substitute volunteer, call 252-6452.