Food pantry needs volunteers to continue work
by Maddy Houk
Sep 20, 2012 | 2134 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Food Pantry volunteers Chris Eben, center, and Sylvia Gonzalez hand groceries to Anthony Guzman at the Patterson Food Pantry on Thursday afternoon, September 13.
Lisa James /Patterson Irrigator
Food Pantry volunteers Chris Eben, center, and Sylvia Gonzalez hand groceries to Anthony Guzman at the Patterson Food Pantry on Thursday afternoon, September 13. Lisa James /Patterson Irrigator
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Food Pantry volunteer Chris Eben sorts through items to be handed out at the Patterson Food Pantry on Thursday afternoon, September 13. The food pantry is need of volunteers to keep operating.
Lisa James /Patterson Irrigator
Food Pantry volunteer Chris Eben sorts through items to be handed out at the Patterson Food Pantry on Thursday afternoon, September 13. The food pantry is need of volunteers to keep operating. Lisa James /Patterson Irrigator
slideshow
Food Pantry volunteers Chris Eben, left, and Sarina Merchant sort through items to be handed out at the Patterson Food Pantry on Thursday afternoon, September 13 as President Olga Holcomb looks on. The food pantry is need of volunteers to keep operating.
Lisa James /Patterson Irrigator
Food Pantry volunteers Chris Eben, left, and Sarina Merchant sort through items to be handed out at the Patterson Food Pantry on Thursday afternoon, September 13 as President Olga Holcomb looks on. The food pantry is need of volunteers to keep operating. Lisa James /Patterson Irrigator
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Yolanda Hernandez smiles as she pushes her shopping cart of groceries from the Patterson Food Pantry on Thursday afternoon, September 13.
Lisa James /Patterson Irrigator
Yolanda Hernandez smiles as she pushes her shopping cart of groceries from the Patterson Food Pantry on Thursday afternoon, September 13. Lisa James /Patterson Irrigator
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At a glance

WHAT: Westside Food Pantry

WHEN: 1 to 3:30 p.m. Thursdays

WHERE: Parking lot of the Federated Methodist-Presbyterian Church, 45 S. El Circulo

DETAILS: The food pantry needs bilingual volunteers to work the check-in desk and to serve on the board of directors. Pantry officials are also seeking donations of soup and peanut butter.

INFO: Helen Melo, 892-5351; or Olga Holcombe, 892- 8455.

Heeding the call for help, West Side residents stepped forward this week to volunteer at the Westside Food Pantry, which is in danger of closing without a volunteer board in place.

Helen Melo, of Patterson, the pantry’s vice president, said several interested people phoned her and President Olga Holcombe after a short story about the need appeared on the back page of the Sept. 13 edition of the Irrigator.

Several people have agreed to volunteer, but the pantry still needs bilingual volunteers and someone willing to assume the presidency, as Holcombe said she is ready to retire.

Holcombe, a Patterson resident, has spent the past 10 years helping at the pantry, starting out as a volunteer and then becoming scheduling secretary before acting as president for the past seven years.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” Holcombe said Tuesday, Sept 18. “I just feel it’s time for me to step down and let someone else take over the leadership.”

The president attends meetings with the Salvation Army, which delivers food to the pantry once a month, and also meets with Second Harvest, an organization from which the pantry buys food using grant money. Holcombe also meets with volunteers several times a year.

Those volunteers are the reason the charity continues to exist, she said.

Volunteers such as her husband, Wayne, pick up food and take it back to the pantry. And volunteers like Jim Muller, of Patterson, chip in by handling maintenance and other tasks.

“Just being available is important,” Holcombe said.

Melo has volunteered at the local pantry for five years, serving as a bilingual interpreter and vice president.

She said that with winter approaching, it’s especially important for the pantry to have a full staff and board.

“We usually help more people in winter, because we have people laid off from work,” Melo said. “We have more unemployed laborers coming in.”

More than 5,000 people have been helped each year since the pantry’s inception in 1991. The organization operates on private donations and grants and serves the communities of Westley, Grayson, Patterson and Crows Landing.

Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or maddy@pattersonirrigator.com

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