Food bank donations exceed expectations

Stacy Foster, 14, of Clovis, picks up a bag of cans Saturday in Clovis for the 2005 Holiday Canned Food Drive benefiting the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

Clovis residents pulled everything from cereal to canned beans from their pantries Saturday for the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico’s third annual holiday food drive.

The food bank’s warehouseman, Joe Taylor, estimates 3,000 pounds of food was collected by noon. Last year, the food bank collected 2,286 pounds, according to food bank employee Ethalynn Tollett.

“I think we’ve done better this year than last,” she said.

More food was donated than expected, Taylor said, as the food bank forecasted recent environmental disasters would stress residents of donations.

Food will be sorted and weighed Tuesday by volunteers, according to the food bank’s director, Nancy Taylor.

Thirteen volunteer drivers from Clovis and Texico schools, the Lion’s Club and Desert Cruzers scanned the streets for plastic bags full of non-perishable food.

Courtney Bell, 14, will receive community service credit from her school in Texico after gathering 30 bags of food in two trips, “I had fun,” she said.

Scott Gibbons, 16, also “had fun” scooping up 45 bags of non-perishables, “I had nothing better to do,” he said.

Bruce DeFoor said one in 30 houses on his route left bags outside, and recommended drivers go back two or three times to their assigned areas.

“People sleep late on Saturday, they’re leaving food out later, when we went back again we’d see more bags,” he said.

One resident called concerned that food left by her mailbox might be stolen, food bank board member Margie Watkins said. Drivers responded to the caller’s home and retrieved four bags, Nancy Taylor said.

The food bank employs a staff of six salaried workers and depends on volunteers to sort, package, bleach cans for contaminants and cross out bar codes to prevent re-sale of donated food, Nancy Taylor said.

The food bank sells donated food for 18 cents a pound to church pantries, civic organizations, meal sites, group homes, orphanages and foster parent groups throughout Curry, Roosevelt and Quay counties, Nancy Taylor said. The price of donated food pays the cost of food bank overhead, such as light bills and collection truck expenses, she said.

Carl Pondeaton manages the Central Baptist church food pantry, which buys donated food from the food bank and provides donations to “anyone” every Thursday morning, he said.

“There’s a lot of need, about 50 people a week pick up food sacs,” he said.

Though in an effort to prevent fraud, recipients are limited to once a month pick-ups and must register with the pantry for each handout, Pondeaton said.

The Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico will collect food for the winter drive through Tuesday. For pick-up or drop-off information call 763-6130.