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Churches collect food for ‘caring’ reason

By Staff | Nov 18, 2011

While most Shepherdstown residents will look forward to turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, some area children would go hungry over their fall break if not for an initiative by local churches.

Caring Cupboard started last year when members of Shepherdstown Lutheran Parish wanted to make sure that no child went hungry during these tough economic times. They partnered with other local churches, including New Street United Methodist and St. Agnes Catholic Church, as well as Shepherdstown Elementary School.

The program proved to be so successful that Caring Cupboard expanded to include Shepherdstown Middle School this year. The group also now has the added support of Trinity Episcopal and Shepherdstown Presbyterian Churches, which Caring Cupboard Program Director Karra Cubellis said has been invaluable due to the demand increasing 125 percent.

Volunteers from the churches have accepted donations at the Lutheran Parish House on King Street since August. They continue to take donations until May, but stop for the summer. All perishables are donated to Jefferson County Community Ministries at the beginning of the summer so they do not go to waste.

According to Cubellis, Caring Cupboard distributes over 70 bags of food a week to children in need from the Shepherdstown area. Cubellis hopes that the program can expand even further. Each bag contains enough food to last a child over the weekend. The types of food given are typically items that a child can prepare easily and safely on his or her own.

“We’re only doing two schools and 73 bags a week between them … I can only imagine how many children are going home hungry,” she said.

In terms of growth, SES Principal Suzanne Offutt said the program has expanded dramatically at SES since last year, from 12 children participating to now over 40. The school initially sent out an appeal to students. Administrators felt that those who needed it most would respond.

“I am so impressed with the number of children who expressed appreciation,” Offutt said. “They don’t take it for granted and they make an effort to come and say thank you every week.”

Cubellis said that there are many other schools in the county which need this service. Shepherdstown Lutheran is hoping to reach out to other churches and encourage them to “adopt” an elementary school in their community.

“We would allow them to take on our program model. Logistically, we have it all worked out,” Cubellis said.

Cubellis believes that one of the reasons Caring Cupboard has been such a success is that it is a local charity helping local children. The bags of food are delivered directly to the schools by volunteers, and then guidance counselors and administrators send the food home with children they know need the assistance.

“It’s just taking care of local children who need help,” Cubellis said.

Offutt said that the program answered a fundamental need of the community.

“Benjamin Franklin said that when something needs to be done in the establishment of democracy, you look to each other and say this is what needs to be done now let’s roll up our sleeves and do it,” Offutt said.

Over 20 people have volunteered to help with the Caring Cupboard program. Each month a different church takes on the responsibility of managing the receiving and delivering of food. Cubellis said that most volunteers only have to work three months a year to avoid anyone getting “volunteer burnout,” as she put it.

Cubellis said that she and everyone else responsible for Caring Cupboard fully intend on continuing the program as long as they can support it financially. As of now, the program not only relies on food donations but also on financial contributions from the community.

Caring Cupboard will be accepting donations at a Community Thanksgiving service on Nov. 20.

Cubellis said that the Shepherdstown community has offered an immense amount of support for the program and that without that support there is no way the churches could continue to offer this service.

Anyone interested in volunteering to help with Caring Cupboard can contact Cubellis. Her phone number is available at the Lutheran Parish’s webpage for the program at biztechsource.com/slp/?page_id=406.