Originally published Jan. 2, 2014.
Barely into the new year, retailers and shoppers alike are taking a deep breath as they finally get a break from the holiday stress.
But for area food pantries and animal shelters, this is when stressful times often begin.
Joey Spiegel, executive director of Love In the Name of Christ, says people give generously up to the end of December and that's a big help to providing food, clothing and toys to the area's less fortunate citizens.
"Once January and February hit, you kind of see that drop off. People have done a lot, charitably, leading up to that so you see a lot of donations drop off," he says. "Where we really struggle is in food. It becomes a lot harder to get food drives going. But the need doesn't go away."
This past year, Love INC served 4,400 people. At Christmastime the organization helped 70 families, including about 185 children.
Spiegel says Love INC rides on its year-end donations as far as possible, when springtime food drives help fill the gaps on shelves. Immediate needs for the food pantry include eggs, milk, meat, canned goods and paper goods such as toilet paper.
At the local Salvation Army, the biggest after-holiday needs are cash donations. Capt. Barbara McCauley says the money goes to restock the food pantry and provide social services to area residents in need such as payments for utilities and rent.
"Sometimes they increase after the holidays because sometimes families will overextend themselves at Christmas because they want to provide a good Christmas for their family," she says. "Sometimes they need help in other areas to help them with what they've spent."
The Salvation Army is also seeking canned food and dry goods donations.
The Master's Pantry in Markle is open the third Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The food bank is supported by Markle area churches and volunteers, like Kathie Mower. She says the pantry served nearly 150 families the Saturday before Christmas alone, leaving some empty shelves afterward.
"We are always open to cash donations, of course, to be able to purchase what we need to pack the boxes," she says. "But food donations of staples - canned meats, peanut butter and jelly, cereal, pasta - those kinds of things we give out every month. In addition to that we usually try to give toiletry items. Every month we do something in that realm, whether it's shampoo, deodorant ... This last month we did detergent."
Mower adds the pantry is grateful for the outpouring of generosity from the Markle community, including Girl Scout troops and Markle firefighters.
"They have helped us out so many times, being there on a Saturday morning to help with distribution. They just want to be involved," she says.
In Roanoke, the food pantry is operated as a ministry of St. Joseph Catholic Church, which helped four families this Christmas season. Director Leroy Smart says the pantry, which operates on an as-needed basis, needs canned and non-perishable food as well as cash donations to purchase fresh meat and other items for those the pantry helps.
"We mostly need soup. We give out a lot of soup because it's easy for people to open up," Smart says. "And fruit. People don't donate fruit for some reason."
The Bread for Life Pantry in Warren has been blessed with lots of donations through recent food drives. A grateful Manager Rose Broyles says students at Salamonie School collected 803 cans of food, with additional donations from Small World Nursery School, Warren Sportsmen's Club and Warren SAMS.
The pantry served nearly 90 households at Christmastime - more than last year - and gives out food to about 30 to 35 families a week throughout the year. With flu season in full swing, immediate needs at Bread for Life include chicken noodle soup.
"Our pantry looks real good today. But come July, that's where I worry. People are so good today, but then come July and August and September, that's when the pantry really gets slim," Broyles says. "The thing is to remember that this need goes on all year 'round, not just at Christmastime. Children are hungry 12 months out of the year."
In Andrews, The Shepherd's Pantry also had a record number of families it helped in December. Open on the third Thursday of each month, the pantry gives out boxes of food to residents on a first-come, first-served basis. Secretary-Treasurer Pat McCloskey says 47 families were helped in December, and 379 families received food in 2013, comprised of 1,130 individuals. Volunteers from Andrews churches man the ministry.
Current needs include canned goods, including soups, fruit, vegetables and canned spaghetti sauce and pasta. The pantry also welcomes non-food donations, especially laundry detergent and dish soap.
"We're pretty good about managing our money, but monetary donations are always important," McCloskey adds. "Somehow you wonder where the money is going to come from and it manages to get there ... God is working through a lot of people."
Area shelters also need help this time of year. At Huntington House, the county's homeless shelter for women, Manager Carolyn Ray says they have towels and pillows at the top of their wish list.
"We got several donations. People adopted our clients that were there," she says. "We can always use toiletries - paper towels and tissues."
The shelter houses families, women and women with children. There are two residents living at the house at present and Ray says she has openings for a few more.
The Indiana Dream Center - formerly known as Malta House - has changed its focus from a men's homeless shelter to a year-long discipleship program that addresses addictions. Currently they have a residential program for men, but Executive Director Rob Hollinger says the ministry plans to add a program for women sometime in late spring. In the meantime, the Dream Center welcomes monetary donations to help with expenses to run the house.
"We don't charge the guys anything to be part of the program, and so we have our rent, we have all of our utilities that we pay, we have a couple of paid staff and others are volunteers," he explains. "We also need toiletries, household cleaning supplies and laundry soap, because we have our own washer and dryer there and the guys do their own clothes.
"We're constantly going through laundry detergent and fabric softener, and disinfectant spray, trying to keep everything sanitary."
Hollinger says the ministry is seeking partnerships with multiple churches and others in the community to sponsor the program. At present there are four men living in the house.
He adds that people can also donate goods to the Malta House Thrift Shop, which also supports the Dream Center ministry.
People aren't the only Huntington County residents in need of help.
Helping Paws Pet Haven cares for 250 to 300 cats between its two locations in Huntington.
Head volunteer Betsy Bilyew says the no-kill shelter needs items such as Purina Cat Chow in blue, green and yellow bags; also canned cat food, paper towels, 30-gallon trash bags, bleach, laundry detergent and Mr. Clean.
"And certainly any type of financial support to pay for the winter utilities as well as medical costs to spay and neuter," she says. "Everyone remembers the kitties the month of December, but then they seem to forget them the month of January. So that's always one of our hardest months."
Bilyew adds the shelter is always seeking permanent homes for their feline friends.
"2014 would be an excellent year to add a new four-legged member to their family," she says.
Lilly Bear's Rescue, which operates out of the Riverside Veterinary Clinic in Warren, is in particular need of puppy food right now as well as other supplies.
"We have four puppies," says Lilly Bear Director Jenelle Conley. "We can always use cleaning supplies like bleach, paper towels and laundry soap."
The rescue currently cares for five dogs at the vet clinic and has five more in foster homes. In 2013 year it took in 75 animals, mostly canines. The biggest need is donations to pay for medical services for the dogs.
"Right now we have a vet bill of $570," Conley says.
Mary Rothgeb, animal care specialist and rescue coordinator at the Huntington County Humane Shelter, says she's grateful for the surge in donations recently made to the shelter, but some items are still needed.
The shelter never seems to have enough clay kitty litter, kitten food, blankets and towels. Monetary donations go to pay for vaccinations and other medical expenses for the animals.
"We seem to go through kitten food a lot," Rothgeb says, adding there are five kittens living at the shelter along with five dogs. "It's generally after mamas have babies that we have a flood of kittens. It's really hard to determine, but whenever people do like they did recently and bring things in around the holidays it really helps us get through to the beginning of the year."
Contact the following local organizations to make donations of cash and supplies:
Bread for Life Food Pantry: Knight Bergman Center, 132 Nancy St., Warren. Phone 375-3550.
Helping Paws Pet Haven: 2242 S. Marion Road, Huntington and 700S Old U.S.-24, Huntington. Phone 468-2292 or 356-5330.
Huntington County Humane Society: 390 Thurman Poe Way, Huntington. Phone 356-0355.
Huntington House Shelter: 576 William St., Huntington. Phone 358-0748.
Lilly Bear's Rescue: In care of Riverside Veterinary Clinic, 160 S. Wayne St., Warren. Phone 375-2255.
Love INC: 715 Byron St., Huntington. Phone 356-0933.
Northeast Indiana Dream Center: PO Box 671, Huntington. Phone 200-1155. Malta House Thrift Shop, 515 N. Jefferson St., Huntington. Phone 366-3641.
Roanoke Food Pantry: St. Joseph Catholic Church, 641 N Main St, Roanoke. Phone Leroy and Charlotte Smart, 672-2042.
The Master's Pantry: 105 E. Morse St., Markle. Contact the Markle Church of Christ at 758-2171 and ask for Brian James.
The Salvation Army: 1424 Market St., Huntington. Phone 356-3485.
The Shepherd's Food Pantry: PO Box 53, Huntington, IN 46750. Phone Ray Tackett at 417-3708 or Glenn Fisher at 786-3450.
Complete caption: Love In the Name of Christ volunteer Ed Beckner, of Huntington, checks to make sure he’s filling the correct order for a food pantry client on Friday, Dec. 27. Pantry Manager Sara Brown estimates the ministry fills between 450 and 500 requests for food per month, with some families receiving food twice per month.