Kind of like The Little Engine That Could, the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry just keeps chugging along, no matter how high the tracks, no matter how many mountains get added to the terrain as the economy worsens.
“When I came here eight years ago, we were helping about 15 families a day and now we’re helping 68 to 80,” said Belinda Crawford, the Pantry’s executive director. “In the first quarter of 2009, we’ve helped more than 8,100 unduplicated individuals.”
Fortunately, the community isn’t just receiving help, they’re giving a hand-up as well.
“It’s happened more this year, thank goodness, than ever before,” she said.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who were just struggling before, but we have not turned anyone away. We might cut back slightly on the amount we distribute. Our services are such that we wouldn’t have to have a waiting list unless we just ran out of food.”
To that end, Crawford said that groups, companies and even individuals have been coming to her with offers to conduct food drives to help the cause.
“With the economy and a new president, I think people realize that there are others less fortunate,” she said.
Earlier this month, Beyond the Fringe styling salon gathered the works of several local artists for an auction and raising nearly $2,000 for the Pantry. The first-time experience was so positive, Crawford said it might become an annual event.
On July 18, there was a food drive that was out of this world.
“That was the neatest thing, we got a call that the 501st Garrison, a group that dresses in authentic Star Wars costumes, wanted to do a food drive. They are part of a national group and one of their clubs on the East Coast had a food drive. That drive brought in 1,000 items, so they put out a challenge to the other Garrisons to see if they can beat 1,000 items.”
Crawford said that the local Garrison took up the challenge, putting together an event at Pavilions Market where costumed members of the group posed for pictures in exchange for nonperishable food items.
“They collected 1,700 items, almost doubling the original challenge,” Crawford said gleefully. “They already said they want to make this a yearly event. It was so much fun, when I saw Darth Vader, I got goosebumps.
“One of the Storm Troopers went through the store, filling up a cart,” she continued. “Where else can you see Darth Vader bagging groceries? When a little kid would put a can in the donation bin, you’d hear him say, in that voice, ‘awesome’ and the kids loved it.”
Another annual event is the Letter Carriers drive in May, where residents put bags of food near their mailboxes for pick up by the postal workers.
“The day of the drive, we brought in a ton less food than in 2008, but then more people brought food to the post offices during the week after.”
The total take this year: a whopping 24 tons of food.
Unfortunately, that will cover only a month’s worth of need, as the Pantry distributes about a ton of food every day.
“We have a lot of wonderful people with big hearts in this community,” Crawford said. “It’s my job to take every dollar we get and stretch it to make sure George (Washington) screams.”
The next food drive is this Saturday and will be built into a fashion show at the Santa Clarita Valley School of Performing Arts. “Green Carpet” arrivals will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the fashion show featuring top designers and local boutiques. Seating can be secured with a non-perishable food item that will go to the SCV Food Pantry. For more information on the fashion show, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (661) 222-7910.
Crawford said that any donations, whether they come from an event or just the kindness of a donor’s heart, are appreciated and will be put to good use.
The Pantry’s greatest need, because they put these items in every bag, are donations of peanut butter, canned tuna and macaroni and cheese. On their wish/need list are a variety of items, including canned meats, canned beans, canned soup, canned fruit, toothbrushes, canned tomatoes, bar soap, dried soup, pasta, shaving cream, ride, cereal, deodorant, dry mile and feminine hygiene products.
To make a donation, contact the Pantry at scvfoodpantry.org, call (661) 255-9078 or visit them at 24133 Railroad Avenue in Newhall.