Sunday, July 13, 2014

Firefighters out to battle hunger

Food drive planned to fill empty shelves at Salvation Army

November 16. 2013 3:45PM

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They’re working to extinguish hunger.

John Whispell, a Pittston firefighter, is teaming up with Lt. David Kelly of the West Pittston Salvation Army, for a unique food drive.

The Salvation Army Food Pantry in West Pittston, a reliable source of meals for more than 50 families in any given month, is in desperate need of food donations.

The plan is for residents of Greater Pittston to leave canned goods near their mailboxes or on their porches on Saturday, Dec. 14, and the local fire companies will pick them up.

“We’re trying make this a community effort,” Whispell said.

Whispell is also a member of Salvation Army’s congregation. Lt. David Kelly, who was recently transferred to the West Pittston Post, welcomes any help they can get.

Kelly said the shelves at the Salvation Army’s food pantry are particularly bare.

“It’s really tough to keep that stocked,” he said. He said the facility’s service area stretched from Old Forge to Wyoming and goes into Pittston and the surrounding towns.

The pantry is helped by donations from Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Food Bank, part of the Commission on Economic Opportunity, but additional donations are needed.

An eligible family can receive a box of food, with canned goods, dry food, some meats, including ground beef, ham and baloney, once every 30 days. But boxes of food generally only last two weeks. Because the Salvation Army is considered an emergency food bank, it can’t supply a full month’s worth of food.

The food bank, at 214 Luzerne in West Pittston, opens three days a week, Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.

To receive assistance, patrons must provide proof of residency, proof of income or lack of it, proof of bills and expenses and, if children are involved, identification such as a Social Security card or a birth certificate.

Fire companies that will be invited to participate will include those from Wyoming, West, Wyoming, Exeter, West Pittston, Pittston, Duryea, Avoca, Hughestown, Yatesville, Dupont, Pittston Township, Jenkins Township and Old Forge.

“When there’s a big fire, the Salvation Arm always brings coffee for the firefighters and help out at fire scenes,” Whispell said. “Now we’re asking for a little bit of help back.”

Kelly said all the food collected will go in to the Christmas distribution boxes.

The Salvation Army switches into high gear around Christmastime.

In addition to its popular Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive, which will kick off soon, the Salvation Army also has a toy drive called Angel Tree.

Christmas trees are positioned at various businesses throughout the area, including Walmart, Keytone Automotive and Curves. The tree has tags on it specifying a wish a particular child in need hopes to receive. The donor takes the tag, buys and wraps the give and returns it under the tree with the tag. The gift can also be returned to the Salvation Army HQ on Luzerne Avenue in West Pittston.

“It’s a great way to help out,” Kelly said. “And we’re always happy to make children happy.”

The bell ringers will soon be manning local stores such as Renders, Kmart, Quinns and Price Chopper and Walmart. Volunteers are still needed. The ringers generally put it 4-hour shifts, but those can be split between two people. To help out, stop by the Salvation Army office on Luzerne Avenue and fill out a short application.

Last year, the bell ringers surpassed their $50,000 goal for the first time ever. The religious-based charity collected $58,200. Nationally, $148.7 million was collected.

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