Scouts help replenish local food bank in time for Thanksgiving

By on November 16, 2016
Scouts provided much of the labor that went into the LWCC food bank drive last year. They’ll be on  the job again for the 2016 drive. Photo by Owen Blevins

Scouts provided much of the labor that went into the LWCC food bank drive last year. They’ll be on
the job again for the 2016 drive. Photo by Owen Blevins

Last Saturday, if you live in the Warwick School District, chances are excellent that a local Boy or Girl Scout hung a plastic bag on your doorknob. It’s part of the national Scouting for Food drive, an annual event that gathers food by the ton for distribution by food banks and other non-profits to people in need.

Lonnie Shields, a scouting mom from Lititz (one son is an Eagle, another is on the way to becoming one), has been the food drive chair for Boy Scout Troop 142 for the past five years. She said the Scouts, and a small army of volunteers of all ages, will be coming around to pick up your bag this Saturday, Nov. 19, and they’re hoping there’ll be something in it.

Lots of somethings.

If you didn’t receive a bag, or if you plan to put out a bag on Saturday and nobody picks it up, Shields asks that you call her at 951-9547.

Beth Trachte also hopes those bags come in with lots of somethings. Trachte has been the volunteer coordinator for the Lititz Warwick Community Chest since 2009. The LWCC functions as a food bank for residents of the Warwick School District. It is a completely volunteer non-profit organization, with about 45 volunteers and an annual budget of about $50,000. It operates pretty much rent free out of the basement of the Saint Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church at 200 W. Orange St., Lititz.

Trachte started as a volunteer delivery person with the LWCC in 2004, the same year she signed on as the evening custodian, working the 2:30 to 11 p.m. shift, at Bonfield Elementary. Before that, she was a large-animal veterinarian, working mostly with dairy cows, with a practice based in Denver. Trachte, who received her DVM from Auburn University, worked with sick and healthy cows, a majority of them 1,200-pound Holsteins. It’s a breed not known for its docility, especially when an individual animal isn’t feeling well or just isn’t in the mood for company.

Trachte worked with cows for 15 years. She hinted in an interview about getting beat up a bit and developing some health issues that spurred her quest for a new career. She applied for the custodial job at Bonfield. Even though her resume didn’t exactly fit the custodial mold, they hired her.

“They took a chance on me,” she said.

With the career change came a dramatic change in the way she was able to live her life.

“I didn’t realize until I started at Bonfield how much I like routine,” she said. “When I was in practice, there was no routine.”

Trachte said she could be called out any hour of any day or night. If she had remained in practice, there would have been absolutely no time to work for an organization like the LWCC, much less shepherd it in its role as a valued community resource. Single and with no dependents, she also wanted more time to be with and care for her aging parents.

Having broken the mold with her career path, Trachte is also determined to keep the Lititz Warwick Community Chest food bank free of the entanglements many larger food banks deal with. The LWCC operates almost entirely with donations of food, time, and money from within the Warwick School District. LWCC also receives grant money from the Steinman Foundation and the Rotary Club. There’s no tax money flowing into the LWCC coffers, and there are no attachments to regional food banks. Trachte said she is glad to be spared the headaches and the paperwork that would inevitably come with the oversight of government agencies or large non-profits.

LWCC clients do not have to answer questions about their income, employment status, domestic arrangements, or anything else. All a client has to do is call the food bank number (717-627-0770), provide an address within the Warwick School District, and tell the volunteer who answers the phone how many people are in the household. A volunteer will then arrange a time for a delivery.

The first delivery will include about four boxes of food with non-perishable items in boxes, cans and pouches. These items are stocked on the shelves in the St. Paul basement, which Trachte calls the pantry. The items include canned vegetables and fruits, rice, canned meats, pasta, soup, toiletries, and also some paper products like towels and toilet paper. Trachte said the pantry seems to never run out of tuna, and community donors have always been very generous with their gifts of peanut butter.

“But hardly anybody ever puts jelly in the bags,” she said. “If you want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you need jelly. So we buy jelly.”

But isn’t jelly kind of like candy? Kind of like a gummy bear spread?

“No, it would feel kind of pointless giving out gummy bears. Jelly’s different,” she insisted.

In addition to pantry items, the client also receives a store delivery. The volunteer who is delivering to the client goes to a local store on the way to his or her destination to buy chicken, bread, milk, eggs and other perishables. The pantry portion of a typical order generally weighs in the neighborhood of 115 pounds, and has a retail value of about $1.70 per pound, or just under $200. The bill for the store portion generally comes in around $72.

The food bank is meant to be a resource to get individuals and families through rough spots. A client can get a full pantry and store delivery five times in any 12-month period, starting with the date of the first delivery. Thirty days must elapse between deliveries. If there’s a need beyond the five deliveries in a 12-month period, the client goes on a pantry-only status. Pantry-only orders contain 35-to-40 pounds of non-perishables and will only be delivered at 30-day intervals. A pantry-only client can go back on a full-delivery schedule after his or her 12-month waiting period is over.

The LWCC tracks the frequency of individual client orders, and they know how many people live at each delivery address, but that’s about it. That’s the nature of the her food bank’s service, Trachte said. She doesn’t don’t know much about the clients, only that they are people in need.

The need for the food pantry has grown over the years. In 2009, when Trachte took over as volunteer coordinator, the LWCC delivered some 48,000 pounds of pantry items. This year they are on track to deliver 60,000 pounds, a huge portion of which will be provided by the Scouts.

The Scouting for Food drive is the LWCC’s biggest event of the year. In 2015, the Scouts collected 17,000 pounds of non-perishables.

“This year I’m hoping for 20,000,” Trachte said.

So, grab that bag. And fill it.

Dick Wanner is a Record Express staff writer and photographer. He welcomes reader feedback at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com.

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