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Giving thanks … and food; local pantries ready for holiday rush

WORTHINGTON -- As the holiday season approaches, local food pantries are stocking up to make sure families won't be hungry on Thanksgiving and the rest of the year-end celebrations.

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A wide selection of food at the Manna Food Pantry. Karl Evers-Hillstrom / Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - As the holiday season approaches, local food pantries are stocking up to make sure families won’t be hungry on Thanksgiving and the rest of the year-end celebrations.

  Linda Sanchez, coordinator of the Manna Food Pantry in the lower level of Westminster Presbyterian Church, has seen an influx of clients as Turkey Day draws near.

  “We probably had about 50-75 more families this month than last month,” Sanchez said. “Typically, over the holidays into new year, our clientele is up.”

  One turkey was donated to the pantry this year prior to Thanksgiving by a local family. In previous years, the shelf would receive several turkeys from businesses. With only one bird, Sanchez ran a raffle to give it away to a lucky family.

  That doesn’t mean those who drew the wrong ticket will be without some traditional Thanksgiving food. Pat Haberman, owner of Brewster Fresh Produce, donated more than 9,000 pounds of fresh produce this year, including three tote bags full of fresh squash.

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  The food shelf gets most of its food and resources to buy food through grants and donations - its big annual food drive happens in March.

  Sanchez sees a diverse group of visitors from around Nobles County.

  “We’ve probably seem a family or two of every culture in the county,” Sanchez said. “There’s also people of all ages, from babies to 90-something year olds.”

  The first Thursday of every month is Senior Day, where residents 60 and up can come in to browse the food selection without having to dodge little kids that use the church basement as a racetrack.

  Traveling across Oxford Street to the city’s other major food pantry, Leanne and Bernie Thiner have organized the food shelf at the Worthington Christian Church since September 2015.

  Leanne Thiner said she hasn’t seen an increase in clients for the holiday season, which mostly includes families in need. For Thanksgiving, families will receive a ham - ordered from Second Harvest and Hy-Vee.

  The food shelf is funded mostly by donations, alongside food drives. In the past, the Boy Scouts and post office have held successful food drives to fill help out the pantry’s shelves. The pantry has a surplus of apples at the moment - donated by Ocheda Orchard.

  Thank-yous from clients are many and plentiful, according to Thiner.

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  “They say thank you several times - usually three or fourt times on average,” she said.

  There are times when Sanchez and Manna Food Pantry receive the most sincere form of gratitude. A few years ago, a woman with two little girls came to the food pantry after being urged by her boyfriend, who had lived away from her for a while. She had lost her job and when her boyfriend found out she and her two kids had been living on just peanut butter sandwiches, he made sure their first stop was the food shelf.

  “She did not want to lower her self-esteem to see us,” Sanchez said. “When he brought her in, she was in tears. I gave her a hug and told her I had been in her shoes. This is what we’re here for, for those who are struggling - I knew she would get through it.”

  After a couple months, the family stopped coming to the food shelf. Sanchez saw them at Wal-Mart, and sure enough, the mother had a new job.

  “The kids came up to me and said, ‘When mom came home with all that food, it felt like Christmas,’” Sanchez said. “They were so thankful for helping them get back on their feet”

  Sanchez gives thanks, too - to everyone who is generous enough to donate food or money toward the war on hunger. On Tuesday, she received 145 pounds of food and $100 in cash from Fareway’s bag hunger campaign, where people can give donations at the store.

  “We give big thanks to entire community for any donations,” Sanchez said. “Everything we get is appreciated by the families that need food.”

  

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