"Our purpose is to supply food and clothing to those people in need," Pantry Director Norma Brown told The Brazil Times. "That is what we are here for."
Brown appreciates the community's past support and hopes they will continue supporting what is affectionately known as the "Free Store" in its time of need.
"We're the only local food pantry open five days a week (except holidays) to help people," she said. "But our supplies are dwindling."
The food pantry is experiencing shortages because of increased need. Although the United Way and FEMA financially support the food pantry, it is the donations from local churches, schools, organizations, businesses and individuals that help ensure as many people can be helped as possible.
Brown said more than 200 Clay County families visited the food pantry in March, with volunteers filling more than 1,700 bags of food items.
"We provided food and clothing items to 31 new families in March, and that is more than we served in March last year," Brown said. "With all the layoffs at local plants and the economy not doing well, we're seeing a lot more people come to the pantry for the first time."
Donations of food, clothing, linens and small appliances can be dropped off at the building Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon.
"We love getting fresh fruits and vegetables when we can get them," Brown said. "A lot of people drop off items from their gardens in the summer."
Brown said cash donations are used to purchase items that families can't purchase with food stamps like personal toiletry items and cleaning supplies.
Other types of donations can be left at a storage shed behind the building, but it is not guaranteed the food pantry will receive them. Volunteers said it is hard to report theft of items left for the food pantry without catching the person in the act.
"We don't know how to stop the thefts," one volunteer said. "We're here to help those in need, and we would help them too, if they just walked in the door."
Those who want to donate larger household items like furniture can contact Brown with the information.
"We post it out front so people interested can contact the owner and make arrangements to pick it up," Brown said.
There is even assistance for those who may not know how to make the most of the food they receive at the food pantry.
"I help people learn how to maximize their use of the food they receive from the pantry," Food Nutrition Specialist Donna Black said. "The volunteers here are so wonderful. Whenever I tell them I have someone in need, these women more than rise to the challenge to help them."
Black, a representative from the Purdue Extension Office, visits the food pantry on a regular basis providing helpful information about healthy food choices, recipes and food preparation tips in free classes available at the clients' home.
She, along with help from the food pantry, also provides some clients cooking utensils or small appliances to help them cook meals when they don't have a stove or other way to cook meals.
"We're all here to help people, no matter their situation," Brown said. "We want to continue doing that, but we need a little help ourselves right now to keep doing that."
-- Food Pantry info --
WHAT: Clay County Emergency Food Pantry
WHERE: 506 East Pinckley St., Brazil
WHEN: Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-noon.
Those living in Clay County, with proof of residence, experiencing a need or who have lost their possessions during a fire can receive available food items, clothing, books, baby items and find information about locating other special items they might need, like furniture at the food pantry.
Those who wish to make a donation to the food pantry or want to volunteer can do so during normal operating hours.
For more information, contact Pantry Director Norma Brown at 446-2293 or 448-8854.