The Almanac – Your spare change can be someone else’s sustenance.
Spreading a message along those lines, three young men from Mt. Lebanon asked folks for their unused coins with the intention of donating the money to the South Hills Interfaith Movement.
The pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters added up in a hurry: Nico McGalla, Will Zadecky and Ezra Frenie were able to present SHIM with $350, to go along with hygienic products and blankets they also collected.
The boys received acknowledgment for their efforts during the kickoff event for SHIM’s annual Sack Hunger campaign, held Feb. 23 at the 51-year-old nonprofit’s Bethel Park center.
“I hope we’re all blessed that we have food at home. When you leave here, you’re going to go home and have lunch. You’ll have a nice dinner,” SHIM executive director Jim Guffey told those in attendance, including a dozen and a half philanthropy-minded youngsters. “But there are still a lot of families here in the South Hills that are still struggling.”
In January, for example, the organization served 516 households through its three food pantries, in Bethel Park, Whitehall and Baldwin Borough. That represents more than 1,600 individuals, Guffey said, 35 percent of whom are children.
Five years ago, the January figures were 363 families and 820 people.
“So we nearly had a hundred percent growth in how many people we served over the last five years,” Guffey explained.
During the Sack Hunger campaign, volunteers are encouraged to organize drives to collect items for SHIM’s pantries, with the most-needed listed as:
- Dried beans and lentils
- Pasta sauce in jars
- Cereal and oatmeal
- Soup (especially low sodium)
- Canned proteins (tuna, chicken, salmon, beans)
- Beverages (juice, tea, coffee)
- Diapers (sizes 3-6)
- Personal care items (shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine items, etc.)
Money always helps, too.
“What we can do at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank as a member of their network is we leverage those dollars. So we can take a dollar and actually stretch it to be five or six dollars,” Guffey explained. “So as you’re out doing your food drives and somebody wants to give you cash, that’s great. Take it, and we’ll be happy to take that and spend it and get more for that return.”
The kickoff event featured an opportunity for hands-on help: Participants measured portions of bulk-purchased beans, rice and oatmeal for family-sized helpings.
“The beans that we’re packing today, those are really healthy items,” Molly Patterson, SHIM senior operations coordinator, said. “They’re full of protein and fiber.”
That’s in keeping with the organization’s philosophy.
“One of the things that we try to do is not just give people any food, but give people good, healthy food,” Patterson explained. “So we always make sure we offer a lot of fresh produce at the food pantry.”
And key to that mission, Guffey said, is continued support from folks who want to help their neighbors.
“We can’t do our work here at SHIM without all of the wonderful volunteers.”
By Harry Funk