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One Day: New Hope Food Pantry volunteers

The New Hope Food Pantry is full of love.

Volunteers love helping their community, they love the shoppers and they love each other.

Cheryl Raley, right, and Rayetta Erwin laugh while waiting on the next shoppers to come in.

Cheryl Raley, a retired pharmacist who is one of the pantry’s volunteer managers, said shoppers especially love the canned fruit, soup and peanut butter they can get, which helps stretch their food budgets.

New Hope Food Pantry is located in a small, white cinderblock building on Frye’s Lane. Plenty of windows let the sunshine in and the concrete floor is easy to clean. Strips of uncovered attic insulation is the ceiling. And a cheery area has been made with seating and a rug where volunteers can chat and rest when waiting for the next shoppers or deliveries to come in.

Jean Casey is a volunteer who was working one day last week. She’s been there “since day one, July 2010,” Jean said.

Jean Casey sweeps the floor when she’s not helping shoppers.

“It’s just like one big happy family,” she said while pushing a broom down an aisle of canned foods and boxes of rice. You know, not all volunteer work is unloading food or helping shoppers, Jean explained. Sweeping up “is part of it. Keeping it clean for our clients,” she said, smiling.

Then, pointing to another volunteer with white hair and delicate-looking hands Jean said, “She’s a strong little ol’ thing!”

Rayetta Erwin gives her friend Randy Hawkins a hug.

About that time, Rayetta Erwin, whom she was pointing to, stood up and hugged a tall lanky fellow named Randy Hawkins who had just given a dollar coin to her and some of the other volunteers sitting around waiting for shoppers to come in.

When asked why she was hugging Randy, Rayetta said, “Because he’s my friend. I love him.” Then she said they also went to Faith Fellowship church together.

Hawkins said he was a retired preacher and he liked serving those who need a little extra help. “That makes me happy,” he said, and it’s the the Christian thing to do.

Since it was a nice, sunny morning, the large garage door was open and drivers in a pickup truck and van took turns backing in so volunteers could unload boxes of different kinds of bread a store had just donated and cases of canned goods that had been purchased.

Volunteer, Larry Polston carries in a cart full of food that had been donated to the New Hope Food Pantry.

Then Virginia Blackburn started breaking down empty boxes with a vengeance. “It’s my favorite thing to do.” 

Virginia Blackburn breaks down empty boxes. She said it’s her favorite thing to do at the food pantry when she volunteers.

Virginia said she has a lot of pent-up emotions since she lost her husband several months ago. Volunteering at the food pantry helps her cope.

“I love people. I love helping people. I feel a lot better helping somebody who might be worse than me,” Virginia said.

“I ain’t got it the best, but I like to help those who are less fortunate,” she said.

Cheryl Raley straightens up rows of boxes at the food pantry after shoppers had left.

After arranging boxes of pasta on a shelf and wiping sweat from her brow, Cheryl Raley said she’s worked at the pantry for about 11 years, and has seen the numbers of people they serve grow. She said people who get some of their staples at the food pantry are having difficulty making ends meet. They need extra help because their food stamps and Social Security don’t go as far as it used to, Cheryl said.

Organizations have food drives to help stock the pantry and several stores make large food donations too, Cheryl said. But sometimes volunteers have to use donated funds to purchase what the pantry runs out of.

“It just goes out so quickly. It’s just a constant thing to keep the shelves full,” Cheryl said.

When Kenneth Norman and Mary Rogers rolled into the pantry on their motorized wheelchairs, Jean and Rayetta jumped up and started helping the couple fill sacks of food.

Rayetta Erwin, left carries Mary Rogers’ food selection.

Mary is a regular shopper. She said the volunteers are nice and friendly and the building is clean. “They do good work,” Mary said.

Once volunteers finished filling bags with the couple’s selections, Jean stuffed Kenneth’s backpack, which was hanging on the back of his wheelchair, with the food so he could easily transport it home.

Jean Casey, left, fills Kenneth Norman’s wheelchair backpack with the food he just got at the food pantry.

Rose Daugherty is the main “shopper” for the pantry. And her friend Alice Miller helps. “We’re always on the go,” Rose said, as the two laughed like school girls. “It does my heart good.”

Alice Miller, left and Rose Daugherty

Henry Muller unwads and flattens used shopping bags at the New Hope Food Pantry one day last week. “This is my way of giving back to society.”

Benny Peyton drives his truck a couple of days a week and picks up food donations from Walmart early Friday mornings. Benny said keeping the food pantry stocked and open “takes everybody; it don’t take just one person.”

As more shoppers walked into the pantry, Rose said, “We love everybody. We consider we’re blessed. And we need more volunteers.”

Volunteer ,Doe Scott, points to where a certain food items is for a shopper.