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Summer doesn't slow FISH's need for food

FISH Pantry Coordinator Sandy Klersy says donations are down and she needs the community’s help to keep the shelves full. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
July 13, 2011 - Hunger doesn't take the summer off.

That's the basic message Oxford-Orion FISH is trying to promote as it seeks donations to bulk up its depleted food pantry, which provides free groceries to local families and individuals who have fallen on hard times.

"It's summer time. People forget all about donations because they're all taking summer vacations, swimming, doing whatever the kids are doing," explained FISH Pantry Coordinator Sandy Klersy. "Plus, the schools are out – they're a big supporter."

Right now, FISH is giving out more food to clients than it's receiving in donations.

"Food-wise, everything is down," Klersy said. "What I have on the shelves right now is pretty much what I have in the pantry other than a few crates downstairs."

One reason the pantry is so low is the annual food drive put on by the Oxford and Lake Orion post offices in May, only yielded 12,398 pounds of food. That's down from last year's drive, which produced 16,182 pounds.

Given that significant drop, it's easy to see why FISH is in need, especially when the monthly demand is factored in.

During the month of June alone, FISH gave out 15,165 pounds of food to 465 individuals (194 households).

Between January and June this year, the pantry distributed 86,079 pounds of food to 2,706 individuals (1,041 households).

"We're still (giving out) anywhere between 14,000 and 16,000 pounds a month," Klersy said. "We're not getting that much in (donations) to help keep up with demand. In January, we only received 33 crates of food."

Dwindling food donations has forced FISH to dip more and more into its budget to buy groceries to keep the pantry shelves stocked.

"We are definitely spending more money now this summer than I remember having to spend last summer for our food," Klersy said. "I'm shopping every week. I watch out for sales."

These last few months, Klersy estimated she's been spending between $4,000 and $6,000 per month on groceries.

"At least $2,000 of that is in meat alone," she noted. "That's just the basics and whatever's on sale. It's not like I'm buying high-end stuff. We're just getting hot dogs and sausages."

But the money in FISH's budget isn't going to hold out forever as FISH's treasurer reported the group's second quarter donations for 2011 are down 55 percent from this same time last year.

"We had four or five of our (financial supporters) go from giving $500 per month to $200," Klersy said.

The bottom-line is FISH needs food and that's where the public can help in several ways.

The most immediate way folks can help is to donate nonperishable food items at the FISH Pantry, which is located at 487 First Street in Thomas, an unincorporated village located in the northern part of Oxford Township. Donations can be dropped off between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturday.

FISH also has several drop-off sites for food donations located throughout Oxford, Addison and Orion.

Drop-off sites include Lake Orion United Methodist Church (140 E. Flint St.), St. Joseph Catholic Church (714 N. Lapeer Rd.), Oxford Village offices (22 W. Burdick St.), Addison Township offices (1440 Rochester Rd.), Grondin's of Lake Orion (1081 S. Lapeer Rd.) and Hollywood Market (1101 S. Lapeer Rd.).

Businesses, service groups, families or individuals are also welcome to adopt a shelf (or shelves) at the FISH pantry, making them responsible for keeping it stocked.

For example, the Rotary Club of Oxford has adopted three shelves and keeps them full of condiments.

"That helps us tremendously because those alone were big spenders for us," Klersy said. "Mayonnaise is not cheap. Except for meat, condiments are the most expensive items."

On Saturday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Oxford-based AccuDry (3275 Metamora Rd., Unit C) will host a family fun day event. The admission fee will be nonperishable food items for FISH. The event will include carnival rides, for which there will be a charge, however, the proceeds will also benefit FISH.

Anyone wishing to make a financial contribution to FISH can send their check to Oxford/Orion FISH, P.O. Box 732, Lake Orion, MI 48361.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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