Operation Fresh Express, Commodity Supplemental Food Program
For 14 years, Pat Blahovec has guided the Penn Trafford Community Action Program (CAP). During this time, she got the students involved in volunteering for the Westmoreland County Food Bank Jeannette hi-rise distributions, as well as at Operation Fresh Express. Pat believes we are all called to serve others in some capacity and leads the students by example. In April 2017, Pat was recognized for her dedication to service to others by the Westmoreland County Food Bank as the Volunteer of the Year. She is passionate about helping others and the Food Bank is grateful she donates her time to support our mission of enabling all Westmoreland County residents who are hungry or at risk of hunger to have ready access to food.
- How have you been affected by hunger?
Personally, I have been blessed with always having an ample food supply, but I have witnessed many who are not as fortunate. As a school nurse (now retired), I witnessed numerous occasions when students who did not have food at home and came to school hungry. Our church has a small food bank and we are always getting calls from needy families. The community I live in has a rather high median income and people are very surprised to hear we have people at risk for hunger or who are technically homeless. People are also surprised to hear that the area homeless shelters are nearly always full (one in Greensburg and one in Latrobe).
- How has the Westmoreland County Food Bank impacted your life?
The staff at WCFB has helped open my eyes to the impact of hunger in our county. The first time I worked at an Operation Fresh Express I was overwhelmed to see the LONG line of people waiting to receive a rare commodity – fresh food. Some had been in line for 60-90 minutes. Many did not have proper containers to put food in; they had no car to transport the food, etc. I witnessed how very important these OFE’s are.
Delivery food to the Jeannette Hi-Rise Residents has also been life changing to me. Many of these residents cannot get out to purchase food and do not have family to do this for them. Sometimes the food we bring once a month is all they receive. They enjoy seeing someone come to their door that has an interest in their wellbeing. Seeing the large number of food boxes necessary to help feed our senior citizens was also eye opening for me as well as the children who qualify for the backpack program. We always think hunger is in low income areas or in the big cities. But, it is here, in our own backyards. The staff at WCFB is totally awesome. What 24 people can do to mobilize awareness, provide food distribution, deal with government funding cuts and mobilize volunteers is nothing short of amazing. They are all hard working, dedicated and best of all-lots of fun to work with!
- What would you tell someone who may be thinking about donating to the Food Bank?
Funding continues to be cut to food banks. They do not always know what food they will be receiving but the need for food never goes away. In fact, the need for food increases yearly. There are people who literally depend on the WCFB to sustain them day to day. There are others who experience a sudden tragedy in their life and need assistance. PLEASE donate! Every item is important. No one should go to bed hungry. Monetary donations are always extremely important. Try to think of ways to assist your local food bank. For a birthday, ask for food items you can then donate instead of receiving presents. Save your Starbucks coffee money for one week and donate it. Get the organizations you belong to interested in helping to fight hunger in our community. Make volunteering a family affair – what a great lesson to teach your children. PLEASE consider donating a couple of hours a month to volunteer. It will change you; it will change how you look at life and what really is important. Ask a friend to volunteer with you. YOU really can make a difference.