Hitting the streets to restock Mountain Mission's pantry (with video)
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- From afar, it looked like a knot of people hoisting campaign signs yesterday in front of Kanawha County Courthouse along Virginia Street East. But this was the day after the election and a closer look revealed signs and plastic buckets that said 'Power up the Pantry' and 'Donate Here.'
The donations were designed to restock the Mountain Mission's food and supply pantry for area residents, depleted by the double whammy of this summer's derecho and the recent Hurricane Sandy.
"This idea came about last Thursday, very quickly, once we saw a report on the news that some of the food pantries in the area were really struggling to meet the community needs following the storm," said Laura Jordan, spokeswoman for West Virginia American Water.
Her utility, along with Appalachian Power and Kanawha County government employees, teamed up and initially gathered donations in-house. Then, volunteer staffers hit Virginia Street from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday on behalf of Mountain Mission's emptied-out pantry shelves.
"The need is really great," said Jordan. "They need baby items, they need non-perishable food items. There are a lot of communities and families still struggling, being without power and being without some basic necessities."
City and county employees and officials also helped out, with Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper and Charleston Mayor Danny Jones stopping by the fund drive.
"We started at 7 a.m., and the response has been terrific," said Jordan, standing amid stacks of diapers, water bottles and canned food in the back of a Mountain Mission truck. "This truck was completely empty at the beginning of the morning, By 10 o'clock, it was nearly halfway full.
"Plus we have a West Virginia American Water vehicle that is full of donations -- it can't fit anything else in it. And there's an Appalachian Power truck that came full of donations, too, from the companies as well as employees from both utilities."
The fund drive comes at a very good time after a very bad time for the Mountain Mission's pantry, said executive director John Roberts.
"During the derecho, we spent two months of budget for the programs in two weeks," he said.
Typically, Mountain Mission focuses its services on the Kanawha Valley, serving about 22,000 people across the valley in 2011 with food, housing medication, clothing, furniture and other supplies.
"But when these events happen we cannot control, weather related, it just throws all of that out the window. Hurricane Sandy hit us at a time just after the derecho in July. We were getting the pantry somewhat stocked up, then all of sudden this hits," he said.
"We try to respond very positively and reach out to the families in need. The thing about it is we're generally a Kanawha Valley organization, but when you have a natural disaster to hit you can't put boundaries on that, you've got to reach out to meet the need. You can't stop at a county line. We don't turn people away.
"These organizations that came together today to make this happen, they totally put it together, they're out there collecting in the cold. It makes me feel good to know that I work in an area that people will come to together."
You can still donate cash and items like baby supplies, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food items and winter coats at the Mountain Mission office at 1620 7th Ave on Charleston's West Side. Or call 304-344-3407 or donate money online at mountainmission.com
"Earmark it for the disaster," said Roberts. "We'll make sure that those funds get to where they're supposed to be."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-3017.