110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted Dec 20, 2012 - 7:27:52am
If the Pine Ridge Fellowship food pantry were a retail store, there would be no lack of customers. The ongoing economic slump is driving more Deltonans in distress to seek food for which they cannot afford to pay.
“Business doesn’t seem to go away, as much as I pray,” said Nancy Siebert, the director of Pine Ridge Fellowship’s outreach for the needy. “Donations everywhere are tight.”
The church pantry is on the list of organizations to receive food from the City of Deltona’s holiday food drive, and Publix Supermarkets donate bread and other items to the pantry for distribution to the less fortunate.
Standing in front of shelves laden with canned and boxed goods, Siebert was asked how long the seemingly high inventory would last without restocking.
“We’d be lucky to do two weeks,” she said.
As 2012 draws to a close, the pantry is preparing to wrap up its work for the calendar year. There is no shortage of needy families relying on churches and other nonprofit social-service agencies to stave off hunger.
“Because of the way the calendar is, our last day for this year will be next Tuesday [Dec. 18],” Siebert said.
Christmas and New Year’s Day will be on the two following Tuesdays.
When the Pine Ridge Fellowship pantry reopens Jan. 8, Siebert does not expect a lesser demand.
Whereas some clients of the pantry have other kinds of help, Siebert says she now sees and serves more people who have nothing but hope.
“No income of any kind — we’re seeing more of that. No unemployment, no disability, no food stamps,” she said. “We are making referrals as fast as we can.”
One of those who waited patiently in line at Pine Ridge Fellowship was Bob Billings. The former Long Island New Yorker said he fits the more commonplace profile described by Siebert.
“I’ve been out of work for seven years. I have had open-heart surgery, and I have had stomach surgery, and I can’t get food stamps,” Billings said. “I filed for Social Security [disability compensation], and they turned me down.”
To compound his woes, Billings said, his house is in foreclosure.
“The bank sent me a letter, and I’m working with them now,” he said.
Billings, whose career background is in building maintenance, said he cannot find work. His wife works as a housekeeper at a DeLand hotel only 20 hours a week. His mother-in-law, he said, has helped him and his wife make their mortgage payments.
“I just need a job,” Billings said.
The Christmas season doesn’t promise big changes for the Billingses.
“It’s just hard, just doing day by day,” he said.
Neither does Siebert expect a holiday-inspired turnaround.
“So much hangs on the ‘fiscal cliff,’” she said. “Where are the jobs going to come from in this area? What’s going to improve?”
“We can only hope,” said Linda Miller, a helper at the pantry, as she prepared a bag of food to be given to a stranger in need.
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