On a beautiful day at the beginning of September, over 100 partners of the Westmoreland County Food Bank (WCFB) filed into the Delmont warehouse to help kick-off Hunger Action Month and commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Food Bank with a Sip, Sample, and Savor event. “This just shows the dedication to the Food Bank and the people we serve,” stated Jennifer Miller, Director of Development of the Westmoreland County Food Bank about the wonderful attendance to the annual event. This event showcased local eateries and businesses such as, Gia Russa Italian Foods, The Lamplighter, Delmont Walmart, Murrysville Eat n’ Park, and My Sister’s Bistro.
The Masters of Ceremony were Jordan Pallitto, Vice President with The Hill Group, and Michael Quatrini, with Quatrini Rafferty, Attorneys at Law, who both are members of The Visionaries of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County. The tradition of the Food Bank is to recognize partners throughout their network who have demonstrated excellence through their donations, their impact on the community, their ability to encourage and motivate others through their activities, and support the mission and vision of the Food Bank, which is to enable all Westmoreland County residents who are hungry or at risk of hunger to have ready access to food was also celebrated.
This year’s Outstanding Agency was the Grace United Church of Christ Food Pantry. Pat and Mike Baltich are a wonderful, very generous, and giving couple that have partnered with the Westmoreland County Food Bank since 2002 to manage a food pantry in Jeannette. They are very dedicated to helping those less fortunate in their community. This pantry serves between 165 and 200 households each month. Their statistics reports are always received on time and accurate for both the Food Pantry Distribution Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which they have operated in their pantry since the program began in Westmoreland County in 2002.
“Through their work with the CSFP program, they ensure that new clients are placed on the active or waiting lists, they are organized with the program and dedicated to our seniors to make sure that we help them with their needs,” stated the presenter, Randee Eberhardt, Director of Finance with the Westmoreland County Food Bank. “They are efficient in using their waiting list and reliable to try their best to distribute the boxes every month according to the program guidelines. They also encourage those that may be eligible to sign up for the program,” continued Eberhardt.
Grace United has a dedicated group of approximately 50 volunteers, which includes many of the food pantry consumers. Pat and Mike are sensitive to the special situations that arise when clients also serve as volunteers and they handle them well. They always consult with Food Bank staff when necessary. They prepare a meal each month to be served after food pantry distribution in appreciation of their volunteers. Everyone looks forward to this time of fun and fellowship. They conduct their own fundraisers in order to keep the pantry in operation, as the church they operate out of is not financially able to assist with the trucking fees. They also operate a weekly bread/pastry distribution to the needy people in the Jeannette area through donations from local grocery stores. Pat and Mike are always willing to get involved with advocacy requests, special activities, and are active in attending Food Bank functions and events.
The award for Outstanding Donor is the Penn State Cooperative Extension. Penn State Extension provides practical education you can trust. Helping to build communities and the future for a better tomorrow. This is how they describe themselves on their Facebook page, but they are so much more to so many people.
“We have enjoyed a genuine and robust relationship with the Cooperative Extension on many levels and these are just some of the reasons why they were nominated for our Outstanding Donor of the year,” stated presenter, Deana Pastor, Director of Technology Services at WCFB. “Many of the functions and activities that they provide as a service to our consumers may have a funding stream or a particular grant project but all of what they do for the Food Bank is free as a service to those in need,” continued Pastor.
Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by Penn State Cooperative Extension. Once they complete their training, Master Gardeners help Extension better serve the home gardening public by answering questions, speaking to groups, working with 4-H horticultural projects, participating in civic beautification, maintaining demonstration gardens, teaching plant sciences and horticulture, maintaining this web site, and in many other ways. What they do for WCFB and the consumers is donate the product that they cultivate – since 2002 they have donated over 12,000 pounds of produce, that has contributed to over 9,000 meals!
Each month the Cooperative Extension provides a newsletter and recipes for the CSFP and Food Pantry clients. This is a wonderful way to teach families how to cook with their food bank foods. They consult with Texie Waddell, Director of Agency Relations on what will be in the upcoming month’s box and they formulate their newsletter around that. “It is a very helpful and a beneficial resource to them and to us,” stated Mrs. Waddell.
Through a joint effort between Penn State Nutrition Links and the Food Bank, the Super Cupboard Program was offered to families with children under the age of 20 at various locations throughout Westmoreland County. The Super Cupboard concept is a simple, it is designed to educate frequent users of emergency food services by using a combination of food assistance, nutrition education, food preparation, and basic living skills. Super Cupboards offered a learning environment where participants can feel acceptance and support. This program is currently in hiatus but it was a very successful program.
Ten years ago, WCFB awarded the first Partner Award. This award is given to an individual or group who has exemplified selfless giving not only to the Food Bank, but throughout the community. Past recipients have included Jennifer Miele, Karen Piper, Clarissa Amond, Senator Kim Ward, Maxine Pellis, Kris Hayes, Rosemary Spoljarick, Gail Macioce, and Chuck Jarrell. Since the second year that the award was given, the prior year recipient has the honor of passing it on to the next. Chuck Jarrell was proud to present this year’s premiere award to The Visionaries of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.
Established in 2010, the Visionaries are a group of young visionary leaders who care about Westmoreland County and are committed to making their community a better place by inspiring their peers and other young professionals, to become philanthropists who are engaged in their communities. Visionaries work to nurture this philanthropic leadership through grantmaking and the development of a permanent endowment.
Visionaries’ donations are deposited into a permanent endowed fund held at the Community Foundation called the Visionary Fund. As this fund grows over time, the income from the invested funds will be used to make grants into the community. All Visionaries have the opportunity to be involved in the grant-making process and the check presentation is made at a community event that all Visionaries are invited to attend.
The Westmoreland County Food Bank was honored to be included in the grantmaking portion of the Visionaries activities this past year. Jennifer Miller, Director of Development had the honor of presenting their request at their community event. “It was one of the most exciting experiences of my career,” stated Mrs. Miller. At this event, those in attendance pay to vote for the charity of their choice to win the $2,000 grant and then receive those funds along with the grant. “We are pleased to say that we WON that grant,” continued Miller.
WCFB asked the Visionaries to fund the expansion of the Weekend Backpack program. This grant will not only allow the Food Bank to make an immediate and positive impact among food insecure children in the community, but also provide an opportunity to engage a new group of future stakeholders in the fight against hunger.
“What was even more exciting about the event and receiving the grant was what came afterwards. Not only did the Backpack program win but the Community Foundation matched the grant from the Visionaries and a private donor in attendance also matched the grant. Because of the Visionaries ‘vision’ more children will be fed through the Westmoreland Career and Technical center with the $6,600 that was received,” continued Miller
“For the difference they made before funding the Backpack program, for what they have done for children in need through the Backpack program, what they are doing for us today, and what they will do for the community in the future we thank and congratulate the Visionaries of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County on being named the 10th Annual Partner of the Year,” stated Kris Douglas.
For more information about the Westmoreland County Food Bank, please visit their new and improved website www.westmorelandfoodbank.org or call 724.468.8660.
About Westmoreland County Food Bank
The Westmoreland County Food Bank serves over 31,000 area residents each year including 9,300 children and 3,410 seniors. WCFB currently has 60 member agencies in their network of emergency feeding sites. Of those, 43 are food pantries in which low income consumers are able to access emergency food assistance throughout the month. Last year (2016), the Food Bank distributed nearly 7.3 million pounds of food.
50% of WCFB’s food comes from the federal and state governments and the remaining 50% from local donations, food drives, and Feeding America. Administrative and fundraising costs account for 5% of the Food Bank’s operating budget.