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Putnam County Food Pantry needs trump employment figures

Monday, July 25, 2011

When unemployment statistics are issued monthly, the media and the reading public basically see numbers and percentages.

Judy Miller sees sad eyes and people in need.

"This is really a trying time for everyone," the Putnam County Emergency Food Pantry director and board president said.

"The unemployment stories keep saying that unemployment is down, but everything is not fine," Miller said. "And in some cases, people whose unemployment has run out aren't being counted in those statistics."

Those unfortunate people are, however, showing up at the 620 Tennessee St. home of the Food Pantry on a regular basis.

Last month the Food Pantry served 622 Putnam County families or households. The average client is a family of four, Miller said.

"We had one last week with 12 people," she said. "So we are seeing a lot of people."

Year-to-date figures indicate the Food Pantry has helped more than 3,000 families (including repeat customers) with food for more than 20,000 meals.

"It's heartbreaking sometimes," Miller assured. "It really is."

It is also difficult, she said, when people try to manipulate the system adversely affecting those who really need help.

"We tend to find out when people are lying to us," she said, noting that those individuals end up on a "no-food list."

"We recently had one woman tell us she had eight people living with her in what turned out to be a one-bedroom apartment," Miller said.

Further investigation showed the woman was living there alone, and was trying to assure herself of extra food supplies by claiming seven additional occupants. Ultimately her selfishness, if undetected, could have deprived someone else of much-needed assistance.

While a number of local churches support the Food Pantry on a regular basis, donations from individuals and organizations tend to be sporadic, Miller said.

She expressed the Food Pantry's gratitude to those who join the Banner Graphic in recycling newspaper and other paper products by placing them in the Paper Retriever Recycling bins in the city parking lot adjacent to the newspaper's office.

As a result of those recycling efforts, the Food Pantry receives regular checks for $150-$180 as the not-for-profit entity designated as the recipient of the recycling proceeds.

But beyond that, Miller said, the Food Pantry "is really in need of donations. Individual donations are way, way down."

That is especially true at times other than Christmas and Thanksgiving.

"We get a tremendous amount of donations for the holidays," Miller said, "but then it slows down quite a bit."

That can be especially true at fair time or vacation periods when the public is preoccupied with activities, and charities like the Food Pantry can unfortunately become an afterthought.

"We appreciate all the donations we get," Miller said. "Right now we really are in need."

The Food Pantry is open 9 a.m. to noon Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in the old Skate Place building (first door on the left) at 620 Tennessee St. in Greencastle.

Those interested in making a monetary donation are asked to use the P.O. Box 423, Greencastle, IN 46135 mailing address.

For more information, persons may call the Food Pantry (301-4431) or Miller (721-6228).

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