• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Cold weather doesn't slow food pantry work

FOOD PANTRY VOLUNTEERS Jim Foster, center, Bill Phelps, left, and Fred Gudger spent a cold Tuesday morning unloading food and preparing 75 baskets of food for the needy. (Photo by John McGary)

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, it was 22 degrees and volunteers from the Kiwanis Club, the Salvation Army and Versailles Boy Scouts Troop 43 were assembling 75 baskets of food for needy families at the Food Pantry for Woodford County. "They'll shuffle in and out today, and they'll definitely be cold before they're through," said Sharon Hardin, the executive director of the food pantry. Early in the afternoon, recipients began to pick up the baskets, which were full of canned goods, bread, vouchers for milk and butter and a ham. Incoming food pantry board President Bill Phelps said in the last two months, food drives like the Girl Scouts' "Scare Away Hunger" and the Kentucky State Police's "Cram The Cruiser" had filled the metal building on Beasley Drive with canned goods and other items. "The citizens of Woodford County are just very generous. It's a generous and caring community, and a number of groups held food drives in October, November and December to help the food pantry, and this year we've received over 20,000 pounds of food, which . last us for quite a while until next year, which is just a wonderful thing," Phelps said. The holiday season food drives are an addition to the food pantry's regular senior (124 boxes the first Tuesday of each month) and commodity (144 boxes the third Wednesday of each month) programs, Phelps said, which are a cooperative effort with God's Pantry of Lexington. Hardin said through the end of November, 3,862 families and 7,700 individuals had been given food this year, with qualifying recipients having an income of less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line. Each week, recipients pick up food Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Phelps said people receiving the items for themselves or their families are quick to say "Thank you." "They're always very thankful to the volunteers when they're loading the food for them and putting it out, and you can just sort of see in their eyes how appreciative they are, and how grateful, that the service is there ." Phelps said. Many of the food pantry volunteers, like Phelps, who retired in late 2011 after 37 years with the Legislative Research Commission in Frankfort, are in their 50s and 60s and 70s. Most all of them could choose to be somewhere else on a chilly day - in their warm homes, for instance, or when the weather is warmer, on the links. "Well, I don't play golf. And I talked to some friends when I was getting ready to retire about things that are available, and one lady told me, 'You know, I've been busier since I retired than when I was working,' and I just sort of laughed at that," said Phelps. Phelps began with the commodities program and "just sort of expanded from there," and found the prediction from longtime food pantry board President Peggy Carter Seal to be true. "There are just a lot of people in the community who want to give of their time, now that they're retired - to give back to the community," Phelps said. "The community is the people in it and what they're able to do for it." A little after 10 a.m. Tuesday, Bill Furlong, a Kiwanis Club member and long-time food pantry volunteer, was inside the heated but still somewhat chilly Beasley Drive building. He looked cold, but sounded warm. "I've been very blessed with what I've received. It's a way to give back. I'm retired fully now, so it's what I do," said Furlong.

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