It’s Pantry Day — let’s give our shelves a treat!

“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog” will echo across the meadow of the Washington School House on Saturday morning, May 11, signaling the start of Food Pantry Day in Rappahannock County.

This annual event begins with the Pantry Pet Parade as pied piper Dontez Harris leads the panoply of pups with his soprano sax. “How could I refuse?” said Rappahannock’s consummate multi-instrumentalist, when asked why he was going to the dogs. “I believe in the pantry’s mission, and it’s a great opportunity to combine community service and fun!”

Part celebration and part awareness-building, Pantry Day’s mix of fundraising and fun also includes food drives, a bake sale, a flower sale, a quilt show and a gala dinner at the Washington home of Beverly and John Fox Sullivan.

A scene from last year’s pet parade. Courtesy photo.
A scene from last year’s pet parade. Courtesy photo.

It’s a celebration of success. Thanks to the strong community support that covers 100 percent of the budget, the pantry earned independence and its own nonprofit status last year. About 200 families, comprising some 700 individual clients, were served. That works out to over nine percent of the county’s population, roughly equal to the Census Bureau’s estimate of Rappahannock residents living below the poverty line.

“We’re doing a good job of meeting the need, but there are still hungry families in Rappahannock who don’t know about the pantry,” said Food Pantry director Mimi Forbes. “Food Pantry Day is also a chance for people throughout the community to participate, to join in the effort to take care of our own.”

Registration for the Pet Parade is 9:30. Appropriately, the entry fee is a donation of dog or cat food – canned or dry, any size – to the pantry. Prize certificates will be awarded, recognizing the unique qualities of outstanding canines. This year’s parade is co-sponsored by the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League, and RAWL volunteers will be taking photographs of the entries.

The school’s auditorium will be turned into a showroom for handmade quilts, the exquisite stitchery of noted local quilter Charlotte Laing. Three of her treasured baby quilts will be raffled off to benefit the pantry.

At the Trinity Episcopal Church parking lot, the Quicke Mart on U.S. 211 and River District Arts in Sperryville, volunteers from the Rappahannock County Senior Center will be selling cut flowers on the pantry’s behalf, perfect for Mother’s Day. Mixed bouquets are $12, roses $15.

The Quicke Mart is also the site of the bake sale by St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Last year, this sweet sale raised $1,200 for the pantry, a testament to the outstanding quality of the treats. And the word is out – so stop by early for the best selection.

For three weeks, Rappahannock’s Girl Scouts have conducted a food drive at the elementary school. Cheered on by the scouts, the kids are competing by class for the honor of contributing the largest number of items to the pantry. In addition to the satisfaction of helping others, the winning class gets a pizza party and the runner-up class an ice cream party, so the rivalry is building.

The Rappahannock Farm and Home Center is following the Pet Parade’s pied piper in going to the dogs. For the week preceding Food Pantry Day, the center is holding a pet food drive to benefit the pantry.

The local effort to feed the needy coincides with the U.S. Postal Service’s Stamp Out Hunger Drive, May 6-11. All of Rappahannock’s post offices are participating, and the cans and non-perishables they collect will go to the Food Pantry. To participate through this route, leave donations in mailboxes or deliver to a post office.

Saturday night’s dinner is the centerpiece for Pantry Day. The lovely setting of The Meadows comes courtesy of the hosts, Beverly Sullivan and Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan. Local restaurants donating to the feast include the Thornton River Grill, Blue Rock Inn, Stonyman Gourmet, Tula’s Off Main, Flint Hill Public House, Griffin Tavern, the Country Cafe and the Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton.

Wine is being provided by all the county’s wineries – Little Washington, Berry Hill, Gray Ghost, Narmada, Gadino, Sharp Rock and Rappahannock Cellars. Tickets are $85. For reservations, visit rappahannockpantry.org or call 540-675-3445. Checks may also be mailed to 603 Mt. Salem Avenue, Washington, VA 22747.

For more information on helping to end hunger in Rappahannock County, call the pantry at 540-675-1177 or stop by May 11. The pantry is next door to the Old Washington School.

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