Bread Basket expands, seeks help to fight child hunger
RONAN – Thanks to the newly added space at the Ronan Bread Basket, the second Volunteer Appreciation Celebration was actually held at the food pantry on Saturday.
Tables and chairs were set up for about 30 people and others who stopped in during the afternoon in what is now a large food storage room at the back of the building.
Board Chairman Judy Preston faced the crowd of volunteers and donors and thanked them. “You are what makes this all work,” she said. She added that she was proud that the Bread Basket has been operating for 32 years completely by volunteer service.
She thanked a number of people including Joe Brooks Jr. With help, he put up insulation, fixed the ceiling, and added a few boards to the walls so the building was safe for food storage.
About a year ago, volunteers at the food pantry knew they needed more space to help provide for the 500 people who utilize the emergency food service, so they asked for some help. The owner of the building, Dwayne Hofschulte, let them tap into an area on the back of the building that would double the existing facility, which is the space they are now using.
During the celebration, the group also thanked Ernie Ducheneaux for a dozen years of volunteer service at the pantry. She is retiring from the board, and in true Bread Basket fashion, she was given a real breadboard as a thank you gift for her service. The Bread Basket is now taking applications for a new board member.
Gloria Kramer helped start the food panty in 1987 with Sherri McDonald. Kramer looked at the new space and said: “Now we can accept more food.” She was thrilled to see the food pantry had grown. She said socializing and helping people have been the driving forces behind her many years of volunteer service.
The Bread Basket gives about $250,000 in food each year for emergency food assistance. Preston explained that the pantry supplies each person with four days worth of food each month. She said they operate on a budget of about $45,000 a year with the money coming completely from local fundraisers and donations. Preston said anyone could look at those numbers and see a big difference, which is explained by the fact that most of the food comes in from donations. She added that people can also donate game meat, and the pantry pays for the processing fee.
Many people work to bring in food donations including youth programs, businesses, churches, and individuals. Among the many donations are potatoes from Lake Farms, a recent donation of 3,000 cans of food from Ronan’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and food donations from the local grocery store.
“We really appreciate the support from everyone,” Preston said.
Pantry volunteers are hoping their supportive community will now offer cash assistance for a program to help hungry children. Preston said it’s called the backpack program.
Teachers and counselors identify schoolchildren who need food within the Bread Basket’s service area including the Ronan Elementary School, Ronan Middle School, and Pablo Elementary School. The food pantry purchases bags of food for $4 each. The food is discretely given to the children so that they have something to eat on the weekend. The bags include items like cereal, fruit, packaged lasagna, and granola bars.
“We need to raise another $15 to $20,000 to our budget to pay for this program,” Preston said. “We’ve gotten a $3,000 donation from the Lower Flathead Valley Community Foundation, but we need more cash donations. We know this will really be a pinch in the budget for us, but we think helping to feed hungry kids is worth it.”
Donations can be made by calling the Bread Basket at 406-676-4357 or Preston at 406-239-4576. More information is on the website at ronanbreadbasket.org.
Volunteer Marilyn Tanner kicked off the cake cutting ceremony to thank the volunteers for their service with a song on her ukulele. “We haven’t got a barrel of money,” she sang to a catchy tune. “We work very hard and the days are quite busy.” People smiled and said the tune carried well in the new food storage facility.