If the true spirit of Christmas is in giving not getting, many in Washington County should be feeling very merry and decidedly spirited about now.
Numerous businesses, organizations, church groups and schools across the county have opened their hearts and their pocketbooks this yuletide season to give cash and food donations to area food pantries.
A large $250 donation made last week to the Community Food Pantry of Marietta was a pleasant surprise for volunteers there, and ultimately for those the pantry serves.
SHARON BOPP The Marietta Times
Norma Schultheis, 70, of Whipple and Joe Kurtz, 82, of Marietta pack a box of food for a family of four at Marietta’s First Congregational Church Tuesday. Area food pantries have received numerous donations of food and money from businesses, organizations, church groups and schools across Washington County this holiday season.
"Donation checks are usually between $25 and $100," said director Bill Farnsworth.
The generous check was from chapter 8400 of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, he added.
In a clever holiday twist, servers at the Shoney's Restaurant in Marietta will turn over their order pads to "celebrity" servers from Marietta-based Gospel Mission Food Pantry from 5 to 7 p.m. today.
If you go
What: Fundraiser for Gospel Mission Food Pantry, Marietta.
When: 5 to 7 p.m. today.
Where: Shoney's, 44 Acme St., Marietta.
How: Servers will donate all tips in that time period to the food pantry.
Where to send donations
Belpre Area Ministries, 2310 Washington Blvd., Belpre 45714.
Serves Belpre and Little Hocking.
Beverly-Waterford Food Pantry, P.O. Box 7, Beverly 45715.
Serves Waterford and Watertown townships.
Community Food Pantry of Marietta, 318 Front St., Marietta 45750.
Serves Marietta, Devola, Harmar and Reno.
Gospel Mission Food Pantry, P.O. Box 6, Marietta 45750.
Serves Marietta and anyone in need.
L.A.M.B. Pantry c/o Judy Gilham, 305 Fourth St., Lowell 45744.
Serves Coal Run, Lowell and Highland Ridge.
Lower Salem Food Pantry, P.O. Box 41, Lower Salem 45745.
Serves Lower Salem, Elba, Macksburg, Warner and Whipple areas.
Marietta Church of God Food Pantry c/o Dorothy Dunn, 610 N. Seventh St., Marietta 45750
Serves Marietta area.
New Matamoras Food Pantry, P.O. Box 512, New Matamoras 45767.
Serves New Matamoras and vicinity.
Newport Food Pantry c/o Newport Baptist Church, 235 Green St., Newport 45768.
Serves Newport, Lawrence and lower Independence townships.
Western Washington County Food Pantry, P.O. Box 151, Barlow 45712.
Serves Warren, Barlow, Decatur, Dunham, Fairfield, Palmer and Wesley townships.
Williamstown Food Pantry c/o Karen Fenton, 129 E. Fifth St., Williamstown 26187.
Serves: Williamstown and vicinity.
Wood County Emergency Food Co-op c/o Polly Shepherd, 1502 43rd St., Parkersburg 26104
Serves 17 food pantries and feeding programs in Wood County.
All tips collected during those two hours will go to the food pantry.
"The Gospel Mission Food Pantry is something that's dear to us," said Lu Walton, Shoney's assistant restaurant manager. "Candy (Waite, food pantry director) is a really special person, and we want to help them."
"And there's a lot of hunger in our area," she added.
Students at Waterford High School donated more than 400 food items to the Beverly-Waterford Food Pantry in Beverly earlier this month, according to Kirsten Goeller, student council advisor.
In addition to the food drive sponsored by the Waterford High School Student Council, members of the Spanish Club also donated $300 to the Beverly-based food pantry.
"There's a real spirit of giving," Goeller said. "You could see just how happy students were to be helping people less fortunate, especially this time of the year."
At Marietta High School, the Students Against Drunk Drivers group spent Dec. 10 to 14 encouraging fellow students to donate cash and food for Gospel Mission Food Pantry.
"Kids will rise up to the occasion," said Cathy Harper, coordinator of the Right Path for Washington County, which helped with the high school's food drive.
"Food drives are something students can many times relate to. They know someone in their circle of friends that has needed a little lift up," she said.
The holiday help provided by Marietta High School students resulted in thousands of food items collected, plus $400 in cash raised by a $1 admission fee paid by those attending a Dec. 14 dodge ball tournament called "Let's Dodge Hunger."
All the food and money raised in the days and nights before Christmas will be put to good use by the 11 food pantries throughout Washington County and the 17 West Virginia counties served by the Wood County Emergency Food Co-op in Parkersburg.
Through the annual Send Help campaign, sponsored by The Marietta Times and WMOA-AM 1490, county residents and groups can send donations directly to one of these food pantries.
The need for donations of food and money remain higher than in past years for the Beverly-Waterford Food Pantry in Beverly, Community Food Pantry of Marietta and Marietta's Gospel Mission Food Pantry.
"Definitely there's a major increase in the number of people that need help with food at Gospel Mission," said Waite. "It's a very bad time for a lot of people."
It's not clear why the need has increased this year at the Beverly-Waterford Food Pantry, said co-director Jo Teters. "Maybe word of mouth is spreading for people who don't know about us and need (help)."
Kate Portue, 52, of Marietta said people at the Gospel Mission Food Pantry "have been awesome to my family."
She is living on her own for the first time, has bills related to moving and lives on a fixed income with her disability check.
"We would not have had staples to make it through the holiday without the food pantry," said Portue.
Gospel Mission also provides a holiday helping hand to Ariel Andrews, 19, of Belpre, who is looking for a job and is scrambling to make rent payments and keep the utilities on.
"Candy Waite pretty much helps me in every aspect of the holidays-meals, toys and winter clothes," she said.
Ashley Mayle, 22, of Marietta appreciates that Gospel Mission Food Pantry meets her needs for groceries, especially at Christmastime, since she is unemployed and her boyfriend works in Macksburg which requires extra gas for his car.
"I do still have to go out and buy (presents) for my mom, dad and boyfriend. And you need to worry about bills first," she said.
Each week during the holiday season the Community Food Pantry of Marietta serves 100 to 125 households.
"We try to supply stuffing and potatoes that could be used for Christmas dinner," said Farnsworth.
By the second week in December, Waite's food pantry had already helped 300 families.
"We expect that to go very high with it being the last Wednesday before Christmas," she said.
Waite, Farnsworth and Teters all stressed the importance of remembering those in need of food throughout the year.
"Right now, we are blessed with the support we've gotten for the Christmas season, but we also need it throughout the year," said Teters. "People are hungry every day."