Hunger knows no boundaries. A food pantry for the Hagerstown area, run by the Jefferson Township trustee, continues to grow and is asking for help meeting the need for food.
Jefferson Township trustee Chris Lane has asked trustees of other Wayne County townships for assistance. When he took office on Jan. 1, he inherited a well-stocked food pantry that the former trustee, Joe Smith, had established and run for several years. That operation had outgrown the trustee’s office in Hagerstown.
Volunteers and township staff sort, shelve, store and package the food for distribution on Fridays or during emergencies.
Besides giving away food from the pantry, Lane coordinates a monthly food distribution six months of the year from a Gleaners Food Bank mobile unit, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit.
Having worked with Smith for several months before taking office, Lane knew he would have to expand the township’s food operation. In the eight months since, he has moved the food pantry into larger quarters in another part of the same building. The township purchased three large refrigerator-freezer units for food storage and added shelving for dry storage as well.
Food comes from several sources. Gleaners delivers food to the pantry every other Wednesday, some free, some at low cost. A large food pantry in New Castle and some local churches donate. The township purchased a used van so that Lane could pick up items donated by local stores, most notably the Hagerstown Dollar General, which contacts him when they have milk and other items approaching their “use by” dates.
Lane and the township’s one part-time employee, Allison Ullery, staff the operation, along with a crew of volunteer helpers. Lane is particularly grateful to two volunteers who he knows he can count on for help at almost any time: his father, Bob Lane, and Marty Sharpe.
“But we’ve outgrown the facility we have,” Lane said.
In a letter to other township trustees, Lane said there is a “definite food insecurity issue” in the county.
“We have been able to increase our food donations tremendously over these past several months. With that, our numbers have increased greatly as well.”
On the third Thursday in July, 225 people came to the Hagerstown First United Methodist Church parking lot for the Gleaners mobile food distribution. That’s nearly as many as come to a monthly Gleaners distribution at First Christian Church in Richmond.
Lane believes that funding will determine how many local people the township can serve. The three-member township advisory board encourages him to use all of the money available in the township budget, but it is not enough. Current guidelines allow monthly food pantry visits to the food pantry from people living in Jefferson, Dalton, Perry and Clay townships.
His statistics show that Jefferson Township residents are most of the pantry’s visitors. From January to June, Jefferson Township residents made 428 visits to the office and 205 to the mobile distribution. Figures from other townships include Center, 21 office, 19 mobile; Clay, 88 office, 45 mobile; Jackson, 110 office, 164 mobile; Perry, 53 office, 24 mobile; and Washington, 64 office, 0 mobile. In addition, Henry County residents accounted for 15 office visits and 29 mobile.
“My office takes pride in providing this service, but it is becoming difficult with the costs associated. Currently, Dalton and Perry Township provide some assistance. We are asking you to find money in your budgets to help us maintain this program for everyone. If we are unable to receive help, I will be forced to scale back to just the Nettle Creek Area.”
He wants to apply for grants from foundations and government programs but has found that many of them will not provide funding for government operations. With that in mind, he and his wife have formed a nonprofit, Nettle Creek Community Coalition, which could receive funds to supplement food pantry sources.
He is eager to hear from people with ideas for funding or who would like to volunteer their help. Contact Lane at the trustee’s office, 37 E. Main St., Hagerstown. Call 765-489-4824 or send email to email@example.com.
A version of this article appeared in the September 6 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.