By Bob Satnan
The Benton County Food Pantry needs help stocking its shelves and managing transportation of food. Bothwell Regional Health Center is providing two helpings of assistance.
BRHC is conducting a food drive, collecting donations of nonperishable food at its Truman Lake facility in Warsaw. And for every food item collected, Bothwell will donate $1 to the pantry’s truck repair fund, up to a total donation of $1,000.
In a news release, BRHC Director of Communications Lisa Church said: “When we saw the story in the local media about the food pantry needing funds to repair its truck, we felt we needed to find a way to help. With a health center and sleep center in Warsaw and a clinic in Cole Camp, the Benton County area is very important to us. Plus, good nutrition is an important component of good health.”
On Nov. 9, the truck the pantry used to transport food from the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri in Columbia blew its engine. Pantry Director Debbie Swerline said a man who moved to the area from Alaska “saw our plight” in reports in the Democrat and on television and sold the pantry his 1999 Freightliner truck for $6,500 a week ago. The truck has 225,000 miles on it, so Swerline sees it as a short-term solution.
“The truck we bought needs two new tires, so the money raised (through the food drive) will go toward that,” she said.
Since the pantry’s transportation problem was made public, there has been a steady flow of offers of assistance and gifts.
“People have been extremely generous,” Swerline said. “They are not only bringing canned goods, but a lot have been donating toward our truck problem.”
She has received multiple offers of free labor from mechanics, and Ditzfeld Transfer and Diamond Trucking both offered to haul loads for the pantry. Local residents have offered use of their trucks and trailers — and one man signed over the pink slip on his Ford F150 for the pantry to either use or sell.
“We’re not selling that truck, we’re keeping it,” Swerline said. “We will use it for local pickups so our volunteers don’t have to use their private vehicles to make those runs. ... What a blessing.”
The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri also helped out by bringing a shipment of food just before Thanksgiving.
The pantry’s original truck still needs repairs.
“We would like to get that truck fixed — it’s worth it to us long term to have a bigger down-payment on a new truck,” Swerline said. “We’re ... not rushing into anything.”
She added that the plan likely will be to trade in both the original truck and the one purchased a week ago “and get one with a warrantee.”
Swerline said people have asked if the long-term goal is to purchase a new truck, why spend money on a used one now? She cited a couple of examples:
• Last week she got a last-minute call from Pepsi with an offer of four pallets of beverages; transporting that much product “would be almost impossible,” even with the F150.
• The pantry still needs to pick up food from the food bank in Columbia, and renting a truck for that purpose is a minimum of $200 per trip.
By purchasing the used truck, “We don’t have to make hasty decision, we can shop around and not pick the first thing that comes along,” Swerline said.
The pantry serves 1,100 families, and “we really, really need the canned goods now” to help them, Swerline said.
In the release, Church also said: “The ability to go to the grocery store and stock up on what we need is something many of us take for granted. We fail to realize that some people aren’t able to do that. We hope this food drive generates donations of food that are kept here in Warsaw to serve the families in Benton County who need a helping hand right now.”