Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 2:28 PM on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ninilchik plans fundraiser for its food pantry

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

In 2004, Charlene Paight arrived in Ninilchik from Kansas City, Mo. She was in a hurry, following a trail that led to her biological mother.

"We just flew up with what we could fit in a suitcase," said Paight.

As a result, she experienced firsthand the blessing of others coming to her aid while she got on her feet in a new community.

"Now I really feel a need to give back," said Paight, who, along with Ninilchik resident Madeline Thompson, is leading an effort to develop a Ninilchik food pantry. "(Thompson) and I came up with an idea to do a fundraiser at Christmas time and then we're going to give boxes to families that are needy here in the community."

At the Ninilchik Fairgrounds, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec.17, the public can enjoy a bazaar, hayrides, visits with Santa, a Christmas play and a traditional dinner. The first 40 people to arrive get a free pair of earrings or bracelet compliments of Paight and Thompson, who own and operate the Frances Rose Gift Shop in Ninilchik. There will be door prizes throughout the day. And it's free, with people invited to bring a side dish and a donation — either food or financial — for the new pantry.

"There's nothing like on-the-spot delivery for a need. ... When we work together, it's so much better," said Diana Jeska, executive director of the Homer Community Food Pantry whose area of responsibility stretches north to Ninilchik and to the south side of Kachemak Bay.

North of Ninilchik, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in Soldotna serves as a clearinghouse of food for the entire Kenai Peninsula and has a mission "to feed people because no one deserves to be hungry," said Linda Swarner, food bank executive director. The food bank has clients in Ninilchik that receive commodities on a monthly basis.

However, Paight and Thompson believe there are individuals in Ninilchik who are in need, but are falling between the cracks.

"We have a lot of elders that don't drive, especially in the winter. And there are a lot of people that don't ask for help," said Paight.

Thompson agreed.

"I've noticed a lot of people that won't step forward. They need help, but they don't want their names known, people I know that won't want it known they're bad off," she said.

The hayrides and play are being organized by long-time Ninilchik residents John and Delores Lindeman.

"We'll have a tractor and an old farmer's hay wagon, going around the fairgrounds," said John Lindeman. "It'll be kind of an all-day affair."

Delores Lindeman and a troupe of 15 local actors — youngsters and adults — will perform "The City That Forgot About Christmas," a half-hour play, in the Carol Bock Hall.

"For many people, this will be a new play," said Delores Lindeman, adding that the play's message is not new: "We need Christmas."

Ninilchik's Domestic Engineers will prepare the dinner, a traditional menu of turkey, ham and all the fixings.

"There are 30 of us ladies that are involved," said Becky Hamilton of Domestic Engineers, a group once known as the "Ninilchik Homemakers." The service-oriented group has become familiar to the public through the slices of homemade pies sold during the Kenai Peninsula State Fair, as well as for their jams and jellies. The reputation of the group's culinary skills is so well known, in fact, that the scent of apple butter member Martha Ogren was making recently drew the attention of a black bear. The persistent bruin peered through windows, checked the doors and even scaled a ladder to the roof of the Ogren home in search of the source of the mouth-watering aroma.

Through their "Santa Store" at Ninilchik School, the Domestic Engineers also have an idea about the needs within this small community. Spread over three days, students bring a shopping list with the names of family members, and the Domestic Engineers wrap their gifts for them, ensuring the children have gifts to put under Christmas trees.

"It's stuff we've made, stuff people have donated that is either new or slightly used," said Hamilton.

"There's most definitely a need (for a food pantry). The folks at the (Ninilchik) senior center have a group that goes to the food bank on a weekly basis and brings back breads and stuff they think people can use in the community and there's never anything left over."

A food drive is currently underway at the school, with the class collecting the most to be awarded a free pizza party compliments of Roscoe's, said Paight.

Thompson, who has lived in Ninilchik for 11 years, also has had the opportunity to experience the generosity of friends and neighbors. She's witnessing that again through the combined effort to create the food pantry.

"If it wasn't for the community helping us on this, we could never do this," said Thompson. "Thanks to the community for stepping forward and helping."

Where the food pantry will be located, as well as processes for applying for and delivering assistance, are currently being developed.

To know more, to donate or to volunteer, call Paight at (907) 741-1329.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.