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Food Pantry teams up with IHOP to stamp out hunger

By Terri Richardson Marshall News Messenger
June 2, 2011 at 3:27 a.m.

Tomorrow is the first Friday in June, which also means it's the day when patrons of the local International House of Pancakes can dine and also assist in raising funds for the United Churches of Marshall Food Pantry.

These "First Friday" events were initially scheduled to be held over three months, as the restaurant agreed to fork over 10 percent of proceeds from the day to help the hungry in Harrison County.

"The last two months has brought in a little over $1,100 in for the program," said Harriette Malcolm, who helped organize them with the restaurant manager Bill Edmundson.

"It's a full 10 percent of the day's proceeds from breakfast, lunch and supper," she said. "It's one of those things where people can go out and enjoy a good meal and help the food pantry."

Unless there is a strong turnout in the profit-sharing event, this may be the last of its kind in the series.

"It will depend on how many people take advantage of the program whether we can continue or not," Ms. Malcolm said.

The United Churches of Marshall Food Pantry, 1709 Bomar St., serves an average of 40 customers per day. The assistance it provides increased to almost double as the economy took a turn for the worst in 2009 and has continued to be high as gas prices and food prices have soared.

"We serve all of Harrison County, which is pretty big," said Esquelita O'Neal, a pantry board member and volunteer on Thursday. "Groceries are high, gas is high, but people still need to eat."

Ms. O'Neal hopes many diners will attend the IHOP day for the food pantry as it consistently seeks donations of non-perishable food items as well as money.

"We buy things we run out of quickly, like bread," she said. "We're always looking for volunteers, and our mission is to stamp out hunger, looking for the day when we can open the doors and no one will come."

While the pantry is church-based, many who raise food, funds or offer volunteer time are not involved with any particular church and just show up to help.

"We supply them with staples like flour and sugar, non-perishable food items, and sometimes a farmer will over-harvest and bring in some fresh produce or eggs," said Ms. O'Neal. "People are so grateful when they get fresh vegetables, though we have to be real careful about meat and usually buy it from the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler."

Working with the pantry's customers directly, Ms. O'Neal has noticed more people requesting food for special diets like diabetics, babies and those who need a supplement like Ensure.

"All you need is a picture ID and proof of residence," she said. "I have seen a big increase in young mothers and young families with children and babies."

Another fund-drive that will continue through the end of this year is the $36.50 contribution for individuals, which began under former Marshall mayor Buddy Power.

Funds to the pantry go for more than food, as its building is rented and the utilities must be paid. Food purchases by the pantry are about $1,000 per month unless there is an unusually large number of donations.

Power asserted that for just 10 cents a day, or $36.50 a year and the support of up to 2,000 people from the area, the pantry would raise $73,000.

Although there have been no special events to mark this effort in a while, it has continued to see a response.

Anyone hoping to send a contribution to the United Churches of Marshall Food Pantry can mail it to P.O. Box 1601, Marshall, Texas 75671-1601.

For more information on receiving assistance or to volunteer, call at 903-938-4468 between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.



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