A little help from here, a little help from there. For the Anchor Point Food Pantry, that help is coming from within and without the community and going a long way in helping provide food and serve a hot meal.
“We’ve been doing this food pantry for about 10 years,” said Jack “Pastor Jack” Michael of an unofficial, volunteer effort in place to meet a community need. “Some people don’t even know we have it in Anchor Point.”
A licensed pastor in the Foursquare Church, Michael came to the Anchor Point area from Oregon. While there is no Foursquare Church in Anchor Point, he has taken the community’s food pantry under his wing. Now organizing with the state of Alaska as an official nonprofit, the Anchor Point Food Pantry has a board of directors and Michael serves as its president.
Once a week, Anchor Point area residents drop by the space provided at Greatland Church to pick up food, enjoy a meal and visit.
“Every Monday, about 4:30 p.m., people come in, have soup, some kind of dessert, maybe pie or cake, and coffee, and a little bit of social time,” said Gibby Bachiochi, who, along with her husband Dana, serves on the food pantry’s board of directors. “The number fluctuates between 10 and 30. It just depends on the weather and if people can get out. We see families, elderly people, people with disabilities. It runs the gamut. People that had jobs that no longer have jobs. Families, teenagers, young adults with babies.”
Holiday meals — Thanksgiving and Christmas — also are opportunities to reach out to those needing a helping hand.
Food comes from multiple sources. The annual Christian Sportsman’s Banquet in Anchor Point makes a donation that “has been really a blessing,” said Michael.
The Homer Community Food Pantry helps, as do the Salvation Army in Homer and St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Ninilchik.
“And we have a gentleman who picks up food and delivers it to the church and several volunteers that will set everything up and clean up, and some that will deliver food, too, to people that are shut in,” said Bachiochi.
Girl Scout Troop 211 and Boy Scout Pack 81 have become supporters of the food pantry, putting to use newly acquired cooking skills taught by Bachiochi, who leads Girl Scout Troop 211 and her husband, who leads Boy Scout Pack 81.
“The kids need to see how they can help, to learn compassion,” said Bachiochi.
That lesson led to the youngsters’ increased community awareness.
“There were the questions, ‘What do you mean someone doesn’t have food?’ Some kids have everything and don’t understand the other side,” said Bachiochi. “So, we’re learning to cook because it’s fun, but also because someone might not have food.”
The Girls Scouts spent a weekend preparing a pot of corn chowder and serving it at the following Monday evening meal. The next weekend, the Boy Scouts prepared a pot of bean vegetable soup that they also served.
Chapman School’s kindergarten through eighth-grade students helped stock pantry shelves through a student council-led community outreach project.
“The kids voted to do it for the food pantry,” said Lila Johnson, Chapman’s student council advisor.
Adding fun to the one-week effort, each student making a food or financial donation received a free mustache tattoo or a mustache on a stick. The student council’s eight members set up a table every morning where collections were dropped off and mustaches picked up. A week later, 150 cans of food and almost $50 had been collected and Chapman had a mustached student body.
Homer Community Food Pantry does its distribution on Mondays, earlier in the day than Anchor Point. Anything not used in Homer is given to its neighbor to the north, said Diana Jeska, pantry director.
Lt. Jeff Josephson with the Salvation Army in Homer said the Anchor Point Food Pantry is helping the Salvation Army distribute food to “somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 people we serve through them.”
Michael said judging by the increased number of people stopping by on Mondays, Anchor Point Food Pantry is providing a needed service.
Homer also is seeing an increase in need.
“At the beginning of 2012, we served approximately 65-70 households, 105 adults and 25 children each week on Mondays in Homer. That number has grown to about 90 households, 150 adults and 55 children each week,” said Dave Nofziger, board president. That number does not include emergency boxes prepared during the week or food provided to Homer area schools. On a Monday in mid-March, the numbers reached 111 households, 188 adults and 87 children.
“We have roughly five to 10 new households coming in each Monday,” said Nofziger. Approximately 10 percent of those served in Homer are seniors, 20 percent are disabled and 5 percent are veterans.
Josephson reported a “drastic” increase of people served, but that number has “kind of leveled out at the moment ... but it’s almost double what it was three years ago.”
It hasn’t helped that the Salvation Army Thrift Store on Pioneer Avenue was the target of several break-ins in recent months.
“In the last one they set off fire extinguishers in our store and you can’t get that dust out of stuff,” said Josephson. “We’ve had to get rid of a lot of product.”
Some of those coming to the food pantries or the Salvation Army only need help getting over a rough spot.
“In the past year, one half of the households came three times or less in the entire year, so the food pantry is serving many folks for just a few times,” said Nofziger.
Sometimes the need is for a connection with others.
“We have some people who come on Mondays and don’t even come to get the food. They just come for the fellowship,” said Michael.
How to help
Anchor Point Community Food Pantry
Need: Volunteers, board members, financial and food donations
Homer Community Food Pantry
Need: Items of clothing, household good, books, puzzles, etc. for a weekly garage sale; clients are not charged for items. Donations of food items also are needed, especially fruit and other fresh food.
Contact: 235-1968 or leave donations at the pantry, located in the Homer United Methodist Church, 770 East End Road.
Salvation Army Thrift Store
Need: Gently used items to replenish those ruined by recent break-in.
Contact: 235-8923 or stop by the store at 268 E. Pioneer Avenue.