Banking on change

A new location isn?t the only adjustment for the Marion County Food Bank.

Janell Holter stocks the shelves with canned goods in the new home for the Marion County Food Book at 1220 Main St. in Marion. The building had been used as a youth center. Patty Decker / Free Press
Janell Holter stocks the shelves with canned goods in the new home for the Marion County Food Book at 1220 Main St. in Marion. The building had been used as a youth center. Patty Decker / Free Press
Marion County?s food bank moved out of Valley United Methodist Church last week after occupying space there for almost 30 years.

In addition to changing the location, the food bank has a new name, new hours, new vouchering system and new board of directors.

Board member Jackie Volbrecht said the new board met May 4. The food bank will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays, 5-8 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturdays of each month

Prior to the change, the bank was open from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays.

New name, location

The new Marion County Food Bank and Resource Center is located in the former youth center building at 1220 Main St., Marion.

The Marion Advance?ment Campaign owns the building.

One of the requirements from MAC in making the space available without charge was to modify the current food bank hours in order to better serve the needs of our community, according to Roger Holter, Marion city administrator and food bank advocate.

?We have working families barely able to keep their heads above water,? he said. ?So for them to take off work to run to the food bank would mean losing $30 to $38 income.?

The food bank is now under the MAC umbrella, according to Gene Winkler, a MAC member, and sponsored it as 501(c)(3) tax exempt, non-profit organization.

Winkler said prior to the move, he saw volunteers struggling to go up and down the steps at the church.

?At the new facility, (clients and volunteers) can walk right in,? he said. ?There is a lot more space, more storage area, a restroom, 16 feet of storage on both sides and 32 feet of display area.?

The old facility had one refrigerator/freezer.

He said the food bank will benefit from Wal-Mart practice of donating excess meat, (dented) canned goods or items nearly out-of-date to the Kansas Food Bank.

?With MAC being associated with the food bank, we can receive from the Hills?boro Wal-Mart store,? he said.

Winkler said last week he went to the Hillsboro Wal-Mart and picked up 100 pounds of frozen meat, but had to scramble to find places to store it.

?Two people donated a refrigerator/freezer and a chest-type freezer,? he said.

Filling the shelves

Winkler said the food bank continues to get food.

?Before we had this, we maybe could give out hamburger and hot dogs, but now we are able to have all kinds of stuff,? he said, including chuck roast, stew meat, ribeye steaks, pork chops and chicken legs and breasts.

?We will be able to give people more variety,? he said.

Another program associated with the Kansas Food Bank would double anyone?s donation to the county bank.

?At last count, I saw we have 280 families we serve in the county, and we will be able to continue through Wal-Mart with bread, rolls and bakery goods? Winkler said.

Carlson?s Grocery is involved in the food bank by selling cheese, milk and everyday products at reduced prices.

?It is great to have this to give to people, and have the capability to store it, too,? Winkler said.

Marion County commissioner have agreed to pay utilities for the food bank because it serves families countywide.

?This will mean all the money goes directly toward food, so we can give back to the people,? Winkler said.

Voucher system

Under the former system, the Marion County Health Department screened anyone applying for food.

Unsure exactly how applicants were screened, Winkler said clients then would receive a referral to collect food once a month.

With the changes, Winkler said clients now can come to the food bank on Main Street.

?If someone needs to sign up, they can go there in privacy,? he said.

At some point, food bank organizers hopes to incorporate other assistance programs in the future.

Volbrecht said that was why ?resource center? was added to the name.

Time for change

Holter said there?s a ?tremendous history surrounding this ministry? and one family has been committed to seeing it work.

?Janet Bryant?s mom stocked shelves for years and years,? Holter said. ?When she couldn?t do it any longer, Janet started running it and then her daughter, Jan Helmer, took over.?

In the beginning, the ministerial alliance administered the voucher program because of concerns about duplicating services and abusing the system, he said.

When one of the ministers decided not to control it anymore, Holter said the health department agreed to run the voucher program.

?There was no direct link to the Church Women United and no support,? Holter said. ?A government agency being the clearing house and directing volunteer services also wasn?t the best working relationship.?

Holter said another reason changes were necessary had to do with law enforcement activities, which are driven by changes in the community.

?We have predators entering our community and preying on those in need,? he said. ?We have young mothers (with children) trying to make it work, but they get hungry and desperate and unsavory people outside the county come in and promise women lots of things and lure them into a lifestyle of poor decisions.

?They just need to have someone come alongside and help them.?

Board of directors

Following a meeting at the end of April, the first board of directors were identified.

Jerry Henderson was appointed chairman. Other board members included Charlotte Coleman, Janet Bryant, Jan Helmer, Linda Ogden and Volbrecht.

?None of us are going to be administrative,? Vol?brecht said. ?We will be a working board.?

The board is discussing an open house and plans to have a brochure available soon.

?With the new location, we are now able to serve more families, restore greater dignity and reassure the general public their investments and charitable contributions are being used in absolutely the most efficient way possible within our county,? Holter said.