By Tina Sipula
It is difficult to believe that we are approaching our Annual Holiday Food Drive, but even more difficult to know that it is our 20th anniversary of this incredible endeavor. It all began over 20 years ago, when I went in to talk with Dan O’Brien about our need for a van to haul food. He had never heard of Clare House, so after we had talked for several hours, he called me and offered to have a food drive for us. The first year, it took us 6 weeks to raise one semi-truck load of food. At the time, that was all we needed to keep our doors open and feed everyone for a year. Now, we raise 9 semi-truck loads of food in 3 weeks, and with the efforts of thousands of people and generous hearts, everyone who comes to us is fed. I have no doubt the loving community of Bloomington/Normal and the surrounding area will again respond and we will raise the amount of food needed to keep our doors open. We thank everyone who contributes in anyway – be it with donating food, working with us at the doors of Schnuck’s or in the warehouse to sort food, or those who go door-to-door collecting in neighborhoods. We especially thank those who sponsor us: Extreme Motors, Schnuck’s, and B-104 radio station. The food drive runs through November 26, and food can be dropped off at either Schnuck’s Supermarket, or at any Extreme Motors dealership. If you would like to volunteer to help in anyway, please contact Mike Marvin at: 309-829-1518.
Most of the volunteers at Clare House and the soup kitchen have been with us for a very long time. One of the longest members of our Clare House family, is Verneal Frank. Verneal first started working at the house in the basement in 1989. Her children and her husband then got involved, and her incredible organizational skills made a huge contribution every Saturday morning here at the house. I soon discovered Verneal loved gardening as much as I do, and we worked together for many years in whatever plot of land we could find – in several community gardens, in a piece of property at St. Luke’s Union Church, and for the past several years, Verneal worked the large community garden at Jacob’s Well Church. She rose early to plant, to weed, water, and pick produce to put on our porch and to share at the soup kitchen. She hauled boxes and boxes of fresh-picked produce, washed and froze many bags of tomatoes for us and was a tireless worker who always had a smile on her face and was willing to work. Recently Verneal and her husband, Franz, moved to Florida.
It is with a heavy heart I am reminded that nothing lasts forever, but how blessed my life is and Clare House is, that the Frank family came into our lives and enriched us with their love and generous hearts. We wish them well in their new home and life in Florida, but know they will come to visit us, and perhaps we will harvest a few vegetables upon their return next year! Now we have Mary Beth Jeckel who has taken over the responsibilities in the garden at Jacob’s Well, and she is looking for helpers for next year, so if you would like to help grow nutritious food for our folks in the line, please let us know, as she would love the help!
This past summer our food lines were the longest we have ever had, and the numbers at the soup kitchen were incredible. The 2008 recession is not over in our neighborhood, as we are giving away and feeding more people than ever before. Some local pantries have closed or changed how they distribute food, the government has cut food stamps, many of our folks are handicapped or unemployable, some people work part-time in minimum wage jobs. All the while, the cost of food, clothes and the basic necessities of life continue to rise. And most people don’t know that toilet paper, toothpaste and soaps cannot be purchased with food stamps. (How goofy is that!) The fact remains, we are feeding more people than ever before, and the coming holidays will bring more people looking to put a nice meal on the table for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Help if you can. The smallest contribution goes a long way for someone who has little or nothing. They depend on your kindness and generosity in these difficult times.
We give thanks to all who contribute in any way. In the words of Joseph Thomas Nolan, “We thank you for abundant days, for all the richer life your Son has promised, more than eye, taste, and even autumn can provide.”
|Verneal Frank sorting food.|
|Verneal Frank, watering the garden.|