A Helping Hand for Those in Need

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
One thousand pounds a week sounds like a lot of food and sundries, but that’s what the Putnam County Food Pantry coordinator John Shimkus distributes every week.

Once a month, a truck comes by the United Church of Christ and drops off 3,000 pounds of food where the food pantry is headquartered. Most of the foods are dry goods like macaroni and cheese, instant potatoes or canned goods, although frozen meats also come into the pantry.

“We also get a lot of candy. We take it because we figure the kids don’t get a lot of opportunity to get this stuff,” Shimkus said. “We also get a lot of nutrition bars. People who don’t get a lot of food, they can always have some of that.”

Most of the food the pantry uses is purchased at discount prices, using donations from residents and area businesses. Some businesses, such as Walmart in Bloomington and the Midwest Food Bank donate food and sundries. Boggio’s will also donate fruits and vegetables in season to the pantry.

“Tomorrow, I’ll go down to Bloomington to pick up about a thousand pounds,” Shimkus said. “It’ll be cosmetics and soaps and such. Migliorini Builders lets us take one of their trailers down in order to haul it all back.”

The pantry is starting to gear up for the holidays with candies and food being gathered for families that are struggling to make ends meet.

When the food pantry started 14 years ago, it wasn’t as big of an operation.

“I used to do this, stacking and administering by myself. It wasn’t as much,” Shimkus said.

Now, there are three rooms and several refrigerators and freezers that are used to store the supplies, and the work is done entirely by volunteers, most of whom are retired.

“You gotta be retired to do this, or a housewife with time on her hands,” said Shimkus. “There’s a lot of time involved.”

Donations and volunteers are always needed. To help, contact John Shimkus at 815-339-2618. The pantry is open from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays.

Source: Putnam County Record