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Scouts gather food for pantry

There were a lot of happy faces Saturday morning when local Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts gathered along with their families and scout leaders at the Elvins Food Pantry in Park Hills to unload bags and boxes of community-donated items for the 34th annual Scouting for Food — the largest one-day food drive in the United States.

The event began on the prior weekend when Boy Scouts distributed bags at homes around the area and were collected on the following Saturday.

This year’s donated items included canned fruits and vegetables; peanut butter; cereal; pasta; juice; meals in a box; canned soups; macaroni and cheese; and items high in protein such as canned tuna and chicken or chili and beef stew, along with other nonperishable items.

Troop 417 Boy Scout Clifton Bell, 10, was the first one out of the car to help his mom move the donated items into a shopping cart to move into the food pantry for processing. He’d already spent the entire morning collecting food from the doorsteps of area residents who took part in the worthy project.

Asked why he was spending a cold November weekend morning collecting food for the needy, Bell said, “It was to help all the people in need of food, so they can get a meal.”

His mom, Brandi Bell, looked on proudly as he spoke about helping the hungry.

“We’re really happy to help out the Boy Scouts with this project to feed people in our area who are needing food to put on their table.

Inside the food pantry were volunteers Judy Mattingly and Tammy Chapman who were preparing to take in all of the donations.

Matthingly, who has served as a food pantry volunteer for two years, said her main job is to show those using the pantry what is available, let them pick out what they want and help in any way that’s needed.

“If they can’t pick something up, I help,” she said. “Then I bring them around and the ladies on this side will continue to assist them.”

Both said that the stress on food shelters only increases during the holidays.

“They are always in need,” Chapman said.

Mattingly added, “It never stops.”

Asked why she believes it’s important to be a food pantry volunteer, she said, “I get a reward from it. I feel good knowing that I’m being able to help somebody. It might be just a little something here or a little something there, but I feel like I’m helping, and I don’t think people do that enough anymore.”

Chapman said, “I’m here to help people and I enjoy them coming through. You get to hear a little bit about their life and what they’re going through — and why they’re coming in here. Some people it’s not by choice — it’s because they have to, so they can feed their children or to help get through that month. Elderly people — they’ve got to get through that month.”

Elvins Food Pantry Board President Randy King has headed up the Elvins Food Pantry since 2010. His father- and mother-in-law started it 20 years ago in the old Elvins gas station. Ever since the food pantry began it has made a difference in the lives of so many. King said it’s groups like the Boy Scouts that have kept it going and growing for two decades.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “We need it so bad right now. It’s always worked out where we’ve had enough. The Lord is in control. We’ll get down to nearly nothing on canned goods and something comes up. He’s never failed us yet.”

King expects a larger-than-normal crowd this week because of the Thanksgiving holiday being celebrated Thursday.

“We’re serving 407 families now a month,” he said. “That’s family, not people. It’s about 1,200 people. Along with the scouts we have several churches that help us out, United Way of St. Francois County, Missouri Foundation for Health and lots of individuals. If it wasn’t for our individuals that donate to us, we probably wouldn’t be here.”

Asked what kind of donations the food pantry needs, King said, “We can always use canned goods — canned meats of some kind, like ravioli, — tuna, Vienna sausages and all kinds of dry goods like macaroni and cheese.

Boy Scout Troop 417 Scoutmaster Gene Bannister was on hand to provide any help to the scouts and their families as needed. He’s worked with the organization about 30 years.

“Scouting for Food actually started down in Fredericktown as an Eagle Scout project,” he said. “A young man started it down there as a project and it grew. Now about every Boy Scout council in the country does it at one point or another during the year.

“Not everybody here does it in November. Some do it in April. Some do it in May, but we do it at this time because this is the time of year when the food pantries are tapped. The kids love it. Not only is it helping in a way that not everybody is doing, but it’s also giving back to their community and they’re learning the value of service to their brothers and sisters in this world — and they are, look at them!”

Anyone who forgot to put out food on Saturday, can drop off food donations at any Goodwill location until Nov. 24. While monetary donations are discouraged because of their difficulty to track, if desired, donations can be submitted by check to Greater St. Louis Area Council that will be combined into one large check to the St. Louis Area Food Bank.

“We’re really happy to help out the Boy Scouts with this project to feed people in our area who are needing food to put on their table.” — Brandi Bell, scout mom

Last year, Brandi Bell helps her son, Boy Scout Clifton Bell, 10, place food he collected earlier in the day for the annual Scouting For Food in a cart at Elvins Food Pantry. Looking on is little sister Athena, 5.

Last year, Brandi Bell helps her son, Boy Scout Clifton Bell, 10, place food he collected earlier in the day for the annual Scouting For Food in a cart at Elvins Food Pantry. Looking on is little sister Athena, 5.

Elvins Food Pantry volunteers, from left, Connie Hedrick, Judy Mattingly, Rosie Wilson and Tammy Chapman begin processing the food items brought to the pantry for preparation to put them on the shelves.

Elvins Food Pantry volunteers, from left, Connie Hedrick, Judy Mattingly, Rosie Wilson and Tammy Chapman begin processing the food items brought to the pantry for preparation to put them on the shelves.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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