Paynesville's Food Shelf serves poverty stricken families, as well as single people in Paynesville and the surrounding areas as far as Grove City and Atwater to the south, and Eden Valley to the east. Anyone in need of food, bedding, or children's clothing or toys is welcome to come in; the Community Service Center even delivers food to those who are in need but are embarrassed to come in, and their names are never entered into the books. Unfortunately, poverty is on the rise in this area and the Community Service Center is in need of contributions and donations more than ever.
The Community Service Center holds fund raisers and food drives at various times throughout the year, but the March food drive determines the center's buying power for the rest of the year, because whatever is donated in March is matched in funds by the State of Minnesota. Each food item is referred to as one pound, whether it be a sack of flour or a package of kool-aid, because when all the donated items are added together, they generally average out to one pound each.
Currently serving around 55 families, the need for the services of the food shelf has increased in the Paynesville area by almost 38 percent from last year; not including the additional need that arises during holiday seasons. With welfare cuts on the horizon, Ruth Aulick expects the need for food shelf services to increase even more. People who once depended primarily on food stamps will be turning to their area food shelves.
Local churches have always provided donations as well as volunteers to the Paynesville Food Shelf, but with a rising demand, the assistance of churches will be needed even more. Various civic organizations and businesses have also helped out, holding food drives and fund raisers. "They come to us," commented Aulick. "We never solicit help."
Currently, from six to eight volunteers lend their time each week; loading, unloading, stacking, folding, shelving, organizing, cleaning, and numerous other duties that have to be done in order to keep the Paynesville Community Service Center going. The ladies group from Nordland Lutheran Church have made many quilts and baby blankets for the center, and the ladies group from the Grace United Methodist Church made several children's color book tote bags with a color book, a special pocket for pencils, and five little individual pockets for the five primary color crayons. Generosity isn't limited to area churches; a woman from Grove City buys various fabrics with her own money and sews children's clothing for the center.
The Paynesville Community Service Center was recently inspected and was given an excellent rating in every area, including cleanliness, storage, and food variety and quantity. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. "Our community is unusual," Aulick commented. "They just pour out food for us."
Among area businesses and organizations that held food drives, the Outdoor Store, a sports shop at the junction of Highways 23 and 55 in Paynesville, which sells bait and tackle among other things, collected 3000 pounds of food items in one week for the Paynesville Community Service Center. Corner Drug also participated for food shelf month, collecting 117 pounds. The theatre food drive collected 174 pounds, Jerry's Jack and Jill collected 61 pounds, the Country Cupboard collected 50 pounds, and Stearns Electric Association Trust from Melrose collected 200 pounds. The Paynesville Lions Club collected 400, 700 Stearns Place collected 113, the Good Samaritan Care Center collected 26, and the Singing Saints and String O' Pearls collected 115.
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