Doris Smith, church and community advocate, has been volunteering at the Food Pantry in Helena since 1999 and finds comfort in knowing that even though they may not be able to provide a lot, they still manage to serve between 200 and 500 people a month.
Doris Smith, church and community advocate, has been volunteering at the Food Pantry in Helena since 1999 and finds comfort in knowing that even though they may not be able to provide a lot, they still manage to serve between 200 and 500 people a month. “We are all volunteers that have a passion to do this,” said Smith. Smith reports that currently they receive donations from Wal-Mart and by applying for grants but feels that even doing what you can is often not enough. “The volunteers I work with, “ she said, “work so hard to accommodate those who find themselves without food to eat. We're always busy, and our records show the progress we make.” According to Smith, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to operate an operation that serves over 85 plus families. She adds that she's been operating under an organized system for four years. Smith explained that the food pantry is not a government program and that every bit of the food supplies served comes from donations, grants, church participation and community contributions. “We also receive help from the Arkansas Foodbank Network (AFN), which was established in 1984 to secure and distribute food and grocery products to more than 400 member agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and after-school feeding programs,” reported Smith. According to the AFN these programs serve 33 central and southern Arkansas counties and an estimated 149,500 individuals annually. Smith says that even with a more organized team effort, the faith of prayer still echoes throughout the walls of the pantry. “We begin every morning with prayer before we opened the doors,” said Smith. “We used to include the many that were in line to be served but the line and prayer got larger every Thursday.” Smith explained that once upon a time the Pantry reflected very little organization and was chaotic at times, without lines and equal distribution of bags to the individuals and families waiting sometimes for their only source of food that month. “I remember when our customers were reaching over the counters and just grabbing what they needed. There was no organization method and we ran out of food quite quickly,” recalled Smith. Smith says now it is mandatory for each individual and family to sign up and fill out an application providing proof of residence, number of members of their family, whether or not they receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and proof of a light, gas, and water bill. “We then make a card file and ask for identification when they request our services,” explained Smith. Smith commented that as long as she and the volunteers are willing and they continue to receive donations, contributions and unforeseen blessings along the way, they would continue to feed those who are without. “We even take food out to those who are handicapped or lack transportation,” concluded Smith.