Volunteers play crucial role at food pantry

By Jeff Harrison
Managing Editor

Hundreds of people in eastern Oklahoma County rely on the Mid-Del Food Pantry every week to feed their families.

The non-profit organization couldn’t do that without donations from the community and local businesses, or without help from a loyal team of volunteers.

About 30 people volunteer at the food pantry each week. The majority of the volunteers are retirees, including some who have helped for decades. Students from local high schools and Rose State College also help.

Mike Anderson, director of the food pantry, said his dedicated team keeps the food pantry humming even when demand rises during the holidays.

Candy Francis helps unload canned goods at the Mid-Del Food Pantry. (Staff photo by Jeff Harrison)

“As small as this building is and with the number of people we have here, our volunteers are extremely efficient,” Anderson said. “Last week, we had 60 plus households come in each day, and they were just flying out of here.”

Candy Francis has been volunteering at the food pantry for several years and is often the first person people meet. She said she enjoys helping others and working with fellow volunteers.

“It’s just a great bunch of people here. I love to work with them and helping people,” Francis said.

Anderson said volunteers like Francis provide compassion for those in need.

“Candy knows a lot of the clients and they know her. She puts a little bit of comfort in there,” Anderson said. “When someone comes here it’s a stressful situation for them anyway. They’re hungry or they do not have food for their family, so they’re not real happy about coming here. Fortunately we have Candy and sometimes Linda (Castle), to smooth the feathers and make it a little more pleasant.”

Linda Castle started volunteering at the food pantry a little over a year ago and has no plans to stop.

“I like giving back to the community and enjoy helping others,” Castle said.

Volunteers help in all phases of the food pantry process. A volunteer greeter meets with clients and gathers information about income, proof of residency and identification. All clients must provide identification, proof of residence in eastern Oklahoma County and verify the number of people in the household. People can only visit the food bank once every 30 days.
Another volunteer enters new client information in the computer data system and processes requests for food.

In the next room over, volunteers pack up the orders according to the number of people in a household and number of children under 12. If a new client does not have all the necessary information, the food pantry will provide an emergency bag with a limited amount of food.

Volunteers help in the warehouse, stocking shelves and unloading deliveries and donations from food drives. Other volunteers drive the truck to pick up food from local grocery stores.

Anderson said they’re always looking for volunteers, especially people who can help with physical labor.

“We literally get a ton of food every day we’re open from the grocery stores and donations,” Anderson said. “A lot of our volunteers are older. And it tears up old guys like me.”

The Mid-Del Food Pantry, 322 N. Midwest Blvd., is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The food pantry is closed during lunch from noon to 1 p.m.
For more information, call (405) 732-3603 or email m_pantry@att.net.

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