A local food bank that distributes to pantries and non-profit organizations throughout eastern Iowa made a pre-holiday push to beef up its inventory.
This comes in time to help those in need not only this holiday season but also in the new year, when donations typically dwindle.
St. Stephen's Food Bank in Dubuque held a "Stuff the Bus" event Sunday and Monday. Volunteers with WindStar Lines stood outside Walmart in Dubuque to gather donations from shoppers and put it in the cargo area of one of their buses.
Shoppers opened their hearts and their wallets to give to the food bank. Even Floyd Cook gave what he could, knowing it would come full circle.
"It's better to give the little bit you have to give for the people who need to receive, and I'm the one that needs to receive, too, because part of what they're doing is going to benefit me," Cook said outside Walmart Monday afternoon. "On the 18th when they're giving away meals from the local food pantry, my family's one of them that's going to be there to get help."
Cook and his wife Angela both have disabilities that make them unable to work. Cook said the two of them live on a combined income of approximately $1,000 per month.
"I'm on Social Security disability, and it's just not enough money, and occasionally you need a hand," Cook said, who donated a dollar to the Stuff the Bus drive. "I believe people need to be helped just like I do."
Cook's dollar will go a long way. Kathy Hutton is St. Stephen's warehouse director. She said one donated dollar allows the food bank to purchase $10's worth of food at bulk prices.
That's especially important this time of year, St. Stephen's board member Jeff Streinz said.
"Cold weather, you know, people - especially those with very limited means - the utility bills go up and there's more strain on the family budget," Streinz said, "so there's...less funds available for them to purchase food for their children."
St. Stephen's Food Bank serves more than 100 non-profit organizations throughout six counties in the tri-state area, including eastern Iowa's Dubuque, Jackson, Clayton and Delaware counties, meaning donations to St. Stephen's stays local.
"With the economy the way it is and the cost of food rising, there are so many poor people in this city that they definitely need to be able to be helped somehow," Cook said.
"We really need not only to get the food that's needed immediately, but in order to stock the food bank so we have something to draw down on during the next few months," Streinz said. "January, February, March can be very difficult times for fundraising, and yet the need continues to grow."
Last year's first-ever Stuff the Bus event for St. Stephen's netted about 650 pounds of food and a few hundred dollars. Organizers said this year's event has far surpassed that.
"If you give with a glad heart, there's going to be somebody there that's going to be willing and able to help you when you need it," Cook said.
Food banks all throughout eastern Iowa are always looking for donations of food, time and money.
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