Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Fighting hunger for 30 years
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Jun 10, 2013, 12:30

ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Ed Henry, who began to volunteer after retiring from a desk job, sorts through donations with Bernadette Hargett. Hargett was on her first day of volunteering at the Food Pantry, along with her daughter Niazshma Hargett.

It all started in 1983, helping Hopewell residents who couldn’t afford to feed their families.

Now, 30 years later, the Hopewell Food Pantry serves more than 12,000 residents, providing them with all the necessary items at no charge. Since its beginning, the pantry has seen an increase every year in the number of Hopewell residents needing assistance.

“In the past four years we’ve doubled the amount of people we help,” said Dick Commander, chairman and volunteer at the pantry.

In 1983, the Food Pantry was started in order to help residents of Hopewell who were waiting for food stamps. According to Commander, people were waiting up to three weeks after applying for assistance before they received their food stamps. The program helped those who needed emergency assistance.

“They could come here once a week for three weeks so they could get food until they received their food stamps,” Commander said.

Along with his wife, Jeannine, Commander has been volunteering at the Food Pantry for many years, and he now serves as chairman of the board. Commander says that a lot of the money contributed to the Food Pantry is from the Hopewell and Prince George United Way as well as the Cameron Foundation and the John Randolph Foundation. The pantry also receives numerous grants and local donations in order to continue providing food as their demand increases.

“We used to have a budget of about $25,000, and this year we’re at $90,000,” Commander said.
ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Marlene Goodwyn, right, searches through the stocked shelves in order to fill a bag with necessary food items to be picked up by a family. Each bag is filled with specific items.

The pantry employs and pays only one person to drive around and pick up food, but other than that it is run solely through volunteers from the community, who work sorting, bagging and cleaning up the pantry.

Ed Henry spent 30 years working in an office before he retired. Now he works at the Quick Lunch a few days a week, and spends time volunteering at the pantry. Henry says volunteering for the pantry is something that he enjoys because he is helping others.

“I wanted to do something of a charitable nature, something for my fellow man,” Henry said.

Brittany Goodwyn was in high school when her and her mother began visiting the pantry to help out.

“I needed community service for the National Honor Society, and after that I just kept coming in to help,” said Goodwyn, who now lives in Baltimore to attend school.

Her mother, Marlene, said she fell in love with helping at the pantry during the time she accompanied her daughter to volunteer. After Brittany graduated from high school in 2007, Marlene continued to come back and volunteer and help out her community members.

“You always think to yourself when you hear about the homeless people who have lost their jobs, I wish I could help, well this gives me a way of helping,” Marlene said.
ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Volunteers at the Food Pantry go through donations, stock shelves, and put together bags of food for families in the back room of the Pantry.

While the food pantry relies on volunteers and donations, the food in the pantry is a combination of both purchased and free products. The Central Virginia Food Bank provides meals at a low cost for the pantry to purchase. Companies such as Pizza Hut, Goya, Panera Bread and Food Lion donate to the pantry on a regular basis. Also, food drives around Hopewell help to stock the pantry, such as the most recent drive from the post office. Commander says around 18 churches and 30 businesses give donations.

The generosity of the community businesses and members has kept the food pantry up and running for 30 years this month, and although rules or volunteers may have changed, the mission has always stayed the same, to help those in Hopewell who are in need.

Commander, although in charge of the pantry, credits the volunteers with keeping the pantry alive and running smoothly.

“It’s not me. It’s those people out there helping to make this happen,” he said.

The pantry is open every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon from 1 to 3, and they are always seeking new faces to help in Hopewell.

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