WILMINGTON- How much food does it take to fill a bus? With a little help from the community, the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry plans to answer that question by squeezing as many donations as possible into a MOOver, hoping to leave only room for the driver.
The DVFP is holding their first “Feed the MOOver” holiday food drive in front of Shaw’s supermarket on Friday, from 9 am to 4 pm, and all nonperishable items, as well as cash and check donations, will be accepted. Food pantry president Carol DeBarba says that the holiday season is a time of heightened need for donations. “It’s (collecting food) important around the holidays especially as heating bills are getting higher,” said DeBarba. “People have other needs, want to buy gifts for their kids, and if we can give them special things to eat instead of just macaroni and cheese in a box, that’s something that we try to do if we can.”
For the past 25 years, the annual holiday concert at Memorial Hall served as the pantry’s biggest fundraiser, typically grossing around $3,000 and 100 bags of food in donations. DeBarba said that is typically enough to provide one month’s worth of distribution, feeding over 100 families with a week’s worth of food. Cash donations are used to purchase perishable items like eggs, meat, and produce, as well as special items for the holidays, such as hams or turkeys. With the holiday concert’s indefinite postponement last month, the food pantry still needed to find a way to feed those in need.
That’s where a 22-foot bus painted to look like a cow rolls in. Mary Schoonmaker, a board member of the DVFP, came up with the idea to create a mobile collection center for a day, one that could be filled easily, and that would make transporting the food easy. Mary’s husband Randy Schoonmaker, general manager of the Deerfield Valley Transit Association, was more than willing to let one of the company’s spotted buses out of the barn to help.
“We want to support such a great cause,” said Schoonmaker. “We look at this as one nonprofit helping another. We thought it would be a natural way for us to collect and transport donations, and what better vehicle than a spotted bus.” The DVTA will also have another bus on deck should the first be filled too fast. “I’m sure we’ll be able to fit it all in, and if we get lucky, we’ll bring another bus. We don’t want to turn anyone away.”
The pantry will be providing a list of most needed items for anyone interested in donating food. Along with cash and checks, the DVFP also takes donations at its website, deerfieldvalleyfoodpantry.com.
While the holiday season is challenging for the pantry, DeBarba said the concert will be rescheduled, and help has already come in from a mail campaign, as well as private individuals who heard about the pantry’s needs. There has also been a strong response from local businesses interested in setting up their own collection stations.
“Everyone has been so helpful,” said DeBarba. “ It would be terrific if we could replace what we get from the concert.”
While the food pantry still hopes to hold the concert at a later date, DeBarba says the shelves always need replenishing.