By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – This Valentine’s Day the village is asking people to help out those less fortunate with a food drive.
“A lot of people do food drives over the holidays but it kind of falls by the wayside when the holidays end,” said Erica Hilbert, Spread the Love Food Drive coordinator. “I thought it would be neat to do a food drive and coordinate it with sharing a dinner on Valentine’s Day.”
All of the foods donated will be given to Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay.
Hilbert has volunteered for the pantry while she was a student at West De Pere High School and UW-Green Bay.
“Valentine’s Day is such a commercial holiday where everybody goes out and does these wonderful things, but a lot of families can’t do those,” Hilbert said. “It’s hard for them to see everybody going out and celebrating Valentine’s Day and everybody takes the special dinner for granted. They expect it where these other families are thinking, ‘I wish I could have that.’”
In the Green Bay area there is a definite need for food donations.
Paul’s Pantry alone has more than 4,000 families registered.
“Once they’re registered they’re able to shop once a week, twice a week, or three times a week depending on how big their family is, so the donations would be used to help our families,” said Leslie Sharkey, volunteer coordinator for Paul’s Pantry.
Registered families use the pantry much like a grocery store, except they don’t pay for the food.
Each day the pantry is open between 150 and 200 families come and get food.
For Hilbert a donation to the pantry not only helps provide food, but also helps provide financial breathing room for families.
“The biggest thing is people need food,” she said. “To survive you need food. So a lot of people when they think about spending their money, they purchase food before they purchase new clothes or anything else. If we remove the burden of having to purchase food they can spend that money on something else.”
Most times that something else ends up being rent, other bills, or car repairs which help people stay employed.
“It’s a big drive in people losing their job,” Hilbert said. “If they’re not paid well enough then they have to spend all their money on food, and they have to put that money on other things. They might lose their car, so they can’t make it to work, or lose their home because they can’t pay their bills.”
The Spread the Love Food Drive also coincides with the pantry’s 34th anniversary.
Leo Frigo started the operation on Feb. 14, 1984.
Sharkey said the continued success of Paul’s Pantry over the years is like a three-legged stool.
One leg is the volunteers, another is the donations and the last leg is the donors.
“If one of those legs would fall off we would fall down,” Sharkey said.
The Spread the Love Food Drive runs from Feb. 12 to 16. People can drop off un-expired, non-perishable food at the Hobart Village office.