The recent Thanksgiving holiday, for me, as for most all of us, is a special time to savor with family and friends, to reflect upon our blessings, embrace life’s challenges and face any adversity with courage, to celebrate the simple joys, the gift of laughter, and share our bounty with those less fortunate.
Thanksgiving is also a time in Rappahannock where many a volunteer man the food pantry, for a week long effort, assembling and handing out turkey dinners, replete with fresh produce and fruits, breads, baked and dried goods. Over 190 families are served, folks so deserving of the generosity afforded by their neighbors and friends.
There is an abundance of food to share and there is the capacity to serve at least 100 more individuals and families. In recent days, Pastor Jim Pittman of the Amissville Full Gospel Church, my pastor, spoke from the pulpit and talked of the pantry’s mission.
His words rang clear, his passion understood, and as a result the pantry now enjoys additional recipients and volunteers. It is a hope of pantry leadership, to have more in the church community reach out to their congregations, as celebrants are all too aware of those in need.
In a recent fundraising letter sent out to residents, the food pantry relates information recently published in the Rappahannock News, stating that our community, while considered a wealthy county, has a 10 percent poverty rate, the highest rate in Virginia’s northern Piedmont, and our children have an even higher poverty rate of 16 percent. There are, therefore, many more families who are more than eligible and invited to use the pantry’s services. The offerings are all manner of nourishment and goods including school supplies, even pet food, and the backpack program that supplies 100 students, every Friday, with a backpack full of food to sustain them each weekend — food for many that might be all they will have to eat until Monday, when they receive free or reduced cost meals.
Many, however, are unaware of the pantry’s offerings, and how easy it is to qualify, how simple the application process is — and many, too, are too proud to apply. Don’t be. I write as one who not so very long ago could have and should have enjoyed the generous provisions, the help offered, but pride cost me. I very much regret not having realized that those shelves stocked with foods donated by individuals, local area farmers, grocery chains such as Trader Joe’s, Food Lion, Costco, Wegmans, Waterpenny and Sunnyside farms, are meant for so many of us and pride should play no role in receivership.
There are families and individuals living on fixed incomes, seniors especially, and young families raising children, just starting out, surrounded by affluence but barely able themselves to make their rent. There are folks faced with short term, some with long term financial challenges. Indeed there are many earning what might be considered a good living, even a very good living, that is, if they were residents of a less affluent county.
One where, according to the recent News article, households in the top 1 percent bracket earn 33 times that of households in the bottom 1 percent. This inequity drives up local costs, including housing and food, so a family of four, for example, benefiting from a two person income, raising perhaps two children, in another county might own a home, two cars, have a savings account and enjoy yearly vacations. Not so in Rappahannock.
Whether a recipient or volunteering or both, you will find the pantry’s building in Sperryville, site of the former Blue Moon Cafe, filled with sunlight and warmth, rows upon rows of stocked shelves, and shopping carts with which to navigate the bustling aisles. You’ll encounter an abundance of smiles, a cheerful and welcoming atmosphere. There are no judges to be found. You might meet fellow parishioners, neighbors and friends, and all are warmly welcome.
The Christmas holidays are fast approaching, the spirit of giving now even more vital. Consider feeding your family wondrous foods, and consider as well volunteering and serving dinners to your neighbors and friends. It’s a rewarding experience and for sure, for many, it is an opportunity to experience the true meaning of the holidays. Not everyone has a subscription to the News to receive this column, nor will they be recipients of the pantry’s recent fundraising letter filled with so much vital information, so please if you know of anyone — a neighbor, a friend, a family member — share this with them.
Please contact Mimi Forbes, the beloved pantry director, at 540-987-5090, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the website rappahannockpantry.org. Stop by as well, the pantry is open for shoppers on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Noon to 4 and Saturdays from 10 to 2. Come in and say hi, take 5 minutes to fill out the application — easier than filling out a Safeway Shopper card — and take a tour of the facilities.