SHARPSVILLE – For Valeri Eckhart, the Sharpsville Community Food Pantry has succeeded where the state bureaucracy is failing.
Eckhart, of Sharpsville, was a manufacturing worker before she was laid off during the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression nearly 90 years ago. She tried to apply for unemployment benefits eight weeks ago – and has yet to hear a response.
“I even tried calling them, and I couldn’t get through to anybody,” Eckart said.
Monday marked Eckhart’s first visit ever to the food pantry’s monthly food distribution. Some of the otheres who came were, like Eckhart, first-time clients, while others had been at the food pantry before. But most of them had one thing in common: The COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on their lives.
Eckart, who lives in Sharpsville, discovered the food pantry on Facebook. Going on two months since her last paycheck, Eckhart said the distribution came in handy.
“It’s definitely helpful when you’re trying to make ends meet,” she said.
Returning clients Lori Markle of Sharon and Adrea Farina of Mercer both spoke highly of the pantry’s services and its volunteers.
“They’re always pleasant. They really make you feel welcome,” Farina said.
As with Eckart, the pandemic took employment from Markle and Farina. Both worked in local restaurants, Markle as a waitress and Farina as a chef. Markle said she was affected by the take-out-only measure for restaurants in Pennsylvania, and Farina said there were too few orders to sustain her job.
Both said they were glad to see the Sharpsville Community Food Pantry on Facebook and that its services would remain a constant in this time.
“They are a lot of help, especially now,” Markle said.
The pantry is run by and at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Sharpsville. Normally, the distribution runs from 9 to 11 a.m., but Volunteer Coordinator Rosemary Ferguson said people began to arrive around 8 or 8:30 a.m. Monday, so the distribution started early. The volunteers distributed about 74 meals at the church and another 57 later at Wade D. Mertz Towers Apartments in Sharpsville.
Ferguson said each bag this week came with a treat: a box of Girl Scout cookies, donated by local Girl Scout Troop 36878.
“Everyone that’s come today has been very grateful,” she said.
Aside from the monthly distribution, Ferguson said the food pantry would also hold emergency distributions throughout the month as needed for those who may have missed Monday’s food handout or for anyone who finds themselves unexpectedly in need.
ANYONE in need of emergency food assistance can reach the food pantry by calling St. Bartholomew’s Church at 724-962-7130.
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