Boy Scout troops will be going through the local area, this Saturday, Nov. 8, dropping off grocery bags at people's homes. They'll return the following Saturday, Nov. 15, in hopes of finding them filled with food products for local needy families.
They're doing it to help Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM) with its annual food drive to help re-stock the shelves in its Chantilly food pantry. And WFCM Executive Director Dorothy Fonow says the need, this year, is especially critical.
"We're still serving over 300 families a month and giving out more than 1,000 bags of food," she said. In comparison, last October, WFCM gave 216 families more than 800 bags of food.
"The community's been wonderful and responded to our needs very well over the summer, and since then," said Fonow. "But this is the big push — this is to keep us going through the winter, 'til about March. Then we'll have to start scrambling again to stock the shelves."
She said many residents are struggling financially and don't have enough money to buy food. "This last year was particularly bad," she said. "We had a cold, snowy winter and a wet spring and summer. So those who work outdoors had greatly reduced hours and took home far less pay. And generally, because of the economic conditions, many people here are finding it hard to make ends meet."
Food items especially needed are: Canned fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, canned ravioli and spaghetti, stews, chili, juices and meals in a box such as macaroni and cheese and microwaveable spaghetti with sauce.
Also needed are dry goods such as packages of rice, pasta, dried beans and lentils, tea, coffee, hot-chocolate mixes, cereal, cake mixes, bread and muffin mixes, pancake mixes. Do not include anything in glass jars. However, plastic bottles of catsup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish and syrup are welcome. Fonow said beans and meatless items are needed "because of the diversity of the population and because so many people are vegetarians."
WFCM statistics show the dramatic rise in need from last year to this year. "There's been a steady increase," said Fonow. "We're giving out way more food now."
This January began with 286 families receiving 1,443 bags of food. "That was a monster month," she said. "We were really in the trenches." In February, with snow limiting WFCM's hours, 163 families received 803 food bags. March saw 306 families receiving 1,294 bags, compared to 192 families and 918 bags in March 2002.
In April 2002, 185 families got 933 bags; this April, 246 families got 1,153 bags. In May 2002, 172 families got 806 bags, compared to 303 families and 1,281 bags this May. In June 2002, 193 families got 849 bags; this June, 252 families got 1,110 bags.
In July 2002, WFCM gave 193 familes 849 bags, compared to 265 families and 1,138 bags this July. In August 2002, 224 families received 900 food bags; this August, 235 families got 1,015 bags. In September 2002, 216 families got 807 bags; this September, 258 families got 1,168 bags.
In addition to all that, WFCM still needs people to "adopt" families to help with baskets of food for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Said Fonow: "We've had a ton of families apply this year." Anyone interested in helping should call 703-988-9656.
And on Nov. 15, the day the Boy Scouts collect the bags for the food drive, WFCM is in great need of volunteers, from 10 a.m. on, to sort and shelve it at the food pantry at 13981 Metrotech Drive in Chantilly, next to Midas Muffler. "All people have to do is show up," said Fonow. "We need as many hands as possible to help move that food. The more people we have, the quicker we can get through it."
As for the Boy Scouts, she said, "I love them — they're absolutely great, and they're 100 percent behind us. Anything we ask of them, they do. They really support us wholeheartedly." And she's always amazed at the community's responsiveness. Said Fonow: "I'm appreciative of everyone's help, and I hope it continues because the need is certainly there."