Hundreds of people and dozens of volunteers cheerfully endured the sogginess of a steady drizzle during Bonne Terre Food Pantry’s food fair Thursday, as cars streamed through the former St. Joseph Catholic School parking lot and vouchers were handed over in exchange for a portion of 25,000 pounds of groceries.
Diane Nowak, president of St. Vincent de Paul, which runs the food pantry, said the day was successful in serving 200 families, and eventually the rain stopped, too.
“We’ve had such a marvelous bunch of people who volunteered to help with their time today,” she said. “We at the pantry couldn’t have done this alone. We had volunteers from all over the place. It was a great collaboration among all the volunteers, to get so many people served in such a short period of time. I’m so thankful”
The food fair was coordinated with the help of St. Louis Area Food Bank, Shared Blessings, Youth for Christ and Bonne Terre Police Department. St. Joseph Street was shut down from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to accommodate the caravan of people who wended their way through the pantry parking lot, with Lt. Police Chief Bill Stegall on hand to help out.
“Oh my goodness, I don’t know what I would have done without him,” Nowak said of Stegall. “He came in on his vacation this week. He met with me on Tuesday. I showed him my plan for setting things up, and he helped finalize it, got the traffic barrels this morning to block off the street, ran around, helped hand out food, helped put things away at the end. He was a major contributor and I can’t thank him enough.”
As cars approached either side of a tented island of food on the parking lot, volunteers accepted the vouchers and loaded families up with Volpi prosciutto, two flats of grapes, potatoes, carrots, apples, pears and milk to each family. The food was provided by St. Louis Area Food Bank.
The families were already clients of the pantry, so it was easy, Nowak said, to hand them a voucher and sign them up for the fair during their monthly visit. For the clients who hadn’t visited the food pantry yet this month, she called to let them know of the opportunity.
“Word of mouth is very effective, the word spreads around,” she said. “Our clients go to EMAA (East Missouri Action Agency) and once they get certified over there, they can get food from us for the entire year. We encourage them to go to EMAA, too, because they offer so many other services, and they might find that they can be helped in additional ways.”
Nowak said it was a good bet another food fair will happen next year, and she indicated everyone involved seemed equally pleased with the results of this first-time event.
“We got it together, and we got it done, and we were thankful it went so well, and we were thankful it was over, too,” she laughed. “I think we need to do it again next year.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at email@example.com.