BUCKHANNON – As everyone prepares for the upcoming holiday season, remember to include those who may not have enough in your preparations.
Once again, the Upshur Parish House will be putting together and distributing Holiday Food Boxes for neighbors in need and Executive Director Kristi Wilkerson spoke with My Buckhannon to let folks know what is still needed for the Thanksgiving boxes, what some of the challenges have been this year, when the boxes will be available for distribution and information about the recent Hunger Walk in memory of Mark Petrosky.
Wilkerson said provisions needed for the Thanksgiving boxes include boxes of stuffing mix as well as green beans, cranberry sauce, instant mashed potatoes, gravy packets and Jiffy brand pie crust mixes.
“If possible, we need these items by Nov. 4, 2022, because our volunteers will begin pre-packing the holiday boxes on Nov. 7,” Wilkerson said. “We will begin distribution on Nov. 12.”
She said the Upshur Parish House has plenty of volunteers to pre-pack the Holiday Food Boxes for Thanksgiving.
“But we can always use more help with our distribution,” she said. “We are already planning for our Christmas Food Box distribution as well. Those interested in volunteering can call 304-472-0743 and ask for Kathy or Jodi.”
Wilkerson shared that this year, help is critical because the cost of food has gone up.
“We anticipate more of our neighbors being in need of Holiday Food Boxes due to the rise in food prices,” Wilkerson said. “This also means that our costs have gone up, too. Our typical donations do not stretch as far as they used to.”
Another issue facing volunteer organizations that fill Holiday Food Baskets — a 2022 turkey shortage — has been noted in newspapers and magazines such as USA Today. According to articles in USA Today, inflation caused turkey prices to increase as farmers are paying more for food, fertilizer and labor. Another cause for the shortage USA Today noted is the Avian or Bird Flu which has killed around 3.6 percent of the nation’s turkeys.
Wilkerson said those making donations of needed items for the Holiday Food Boxes can drop the items off any day, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or Thursday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Parish House located at 68 College Ave. in Buckhannon. Monetary donations can be dropped off as well or mailed to that address.
For neighbors in need, distribution of the Holiday Food Boxes begins on Saturday, Nov. 12, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“This Saturday distribution will be curbside,” Wilkerson explained. “Those picking up a basket that day should drive behind the Parish House to get in line.”
The next distribution days are Monday, Nov. 14, through Friday, Nov. 18 and Monday, Nov. 21.
“Neighbors picking up a Thanksgiving Food Box those days will need to park and come into the Parish House front door to get their box,” Wilkerson said. “There is no pre-registration required. Everyone will still complete a form upon arrival, and we follow the federal poverty guidelines for eligibility including TEFAP (the Emergency Food Assistance Program); however, if a family is in need of food in order to have a traditional, healthy holiday meal, then they can come and pick one up.”
The Christmas Holiday Season is just around the corner and Wilkerson said the staff and volunteers at the Upshur Parish House are already preparing for the Christmas Food Boxes. She said they anticipate the need for between 650 and 700 Food Boxes for Christmas.
“We continue to offer monthly food boxes as well as rent and utility bill assistance, clothing vouchers to our thrift store – the Clothes Closet – and more,” Wilkerson said. “If someone has a need, they should call us or stop by and see if we can help.”
Wilkerson also gave a rundown of the first-ever Mark Petrosky Memorial Hunger Walk, held on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
“The first Mark Petrosky Memorial Hunger Walk was a huge success,” Wilkerson exclaimed. “We are grateful to everyone who supported the event. Even though it was a rainy weekend, we had more than 80 walkers and collected more than 1,000 non-perishable food items and more than $4,000 which supported the walk. It was a true community effort with representatives from West Virginia Wesleyan College, local churches, civic organizations, businesses and individuals participating in the walk. We were honored that so many came out to remember our loyal volunteer Mark in such a meaningful way.”
Additional information about the Upshur Parish House is available on Facebook, online at www.parishhouse.org or by calling 304-472-0743.