Still helping after all these yearsManna Food Pantry observing 30th year of meeting community need
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — It’s a bittersweet anniversary.
The Manna Food Pantry is observing its 30th year of providing vital foodstuffs to people in need within the Worthington area. Unfortunately, the need is greater than ever.
“This is a really scary thing,” said Gene Foth, coordinator of the food shelf located on the lower level of Westminster Presbyterian Church, 230 Clary St. “It is costing us a little over $5,000 a month to purchase all the food we need, what with the increased food costs and the increased demand in this community. We serve almost 500 families a month. The need is probably the greatest we’ve ever seen in this community.”
Still, 30 years is a milestone worth celebrating, so the anniversary will be marked with a concert by the Woodbury Chorus and Orchestra at 3 p.m. Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian.
The WC&O is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that raises money for local food shelves. It draws its core volunteers from the Twin Cities area and consequently presents most of its concerts in the metro area. With some determination, Foth convinced them to travel to southwest Minnesota.
“I was at a Hunger Partners annual convention in Hinckley a year ago, and they were promoting various things that support food shelves,” related Foth. “They had a presentation by the Woodbury Chorus and Orchestra, and I really liked it. They normally don’t travel outside the metro area to help food shelves with fundraising, but they made an exception for us.”
According to the group’s publicity chairwoman, Betty Brandt Passick, the WC&O has previously done an international tour every two years, but that’s become more difficult to arrange, so its members were more open to traveling to southwest Minnesota.
“To make their trip outstate a little more beneficial, I arranged to have the Kitchen Table Food Shelf in Marshall have a concert on Saturday night,” said Foth, who also solicited sponsorships to cover the cost of lodging for the musicians.
The WC&O’s program, titled “May There Someday Be Peace,” will include selections such as “Kyrie,” “Nella Fantasia” from the film “The Mission,” “Distant Land,” “Inscription of Hope” and “America the Beautiful,” to name a few.
Under the direction of Gerrit Lamain since it began almost 23 years ago, the WC&O rehearses for three hours every Saturday, from September through May, and performs between 11 and 15 concerts annually, most on Sundays. It’s a major commitment, said Passick, who sings in the chorus along with her husband, but an extremely rewarding volunteer activity.
“That’s why we do it,” she said about helping food shelves raise funds. “We all have a passion for music, and it gives us an opportunity to sing or play an instrument as well, so it fulfills a couple of passions.”
The orchestra has about 20 members, while the chorus numbers about 55, including an auxiliary group of about 25 from Renville County that helps to support the organization’s mission.
No admission will be charged for the concert, but a free-will offering will be taken to support Manna Food Pantry, with a partial match from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Foth noted that Manna is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and has been designated a Blue Ribbon Hunger Solution food shelf.
“It’s like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” he explained. “We had to file a lot of papers to get that and show that we were utilizing donors’ money properly.”
The food shelf is open from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. In addition to Foth, it is staffed by about 25 volunteers, and another 10 to 12 volunteers help to unload the Second Harvest truck that arrives the first Thursday of every month. More volunteers are always needed, as well as donations of both foodstuffs and money, Foth emphasized.
“Forty-five percent of our clients are children under the age of 17,” he detailed. “As far as nationality, it’s about 40 percent Caucasian, 50 percent Latino and 10 percent other nationalities. (The clients) do have to qualify, have to be within government poverty guidelines or enrolled in a government program and referred to us by Family Services, SMOC, organizations like that.”
Foth hopes people will come out to hear the music presented by the WC&O and show their support for Manna Food Shelf.
“We have 450 to 500 seats in the sanctuary at Westminster, and all indications are is it’s going to be a packed house,” he said.
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