In wealthy Fairfax County, so many people struggle to put food on their table. And when they also have to pay the bills for rent, water and electricity, sometimes their children have little to eat.
That’s where the Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM) food pantry comes in, providing a critical necessity of life to local families in need. But it can’t do it without the help and generosity of the community which works hard to keep its shelves stocked.
That’s why WFCM’s annual Stuff the Bus event, Feb. 29, was so important. Over a 4 1/2-hour span that Saturday, at the Chantilly Walmart near the Dulles Expo Center, some 1,432 pounds of food were donated and $293 in cash.
“Walmart is always happy to support the community,” said front-end coach Storm Robinson. “One of the things I was pleased about, coming into this store, is that it’s always been very engaged with the community.”
Local students, employees of Fairfax County’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, plus members of a nearby bank, volunteered their time to make the event a success. Also participating were the county’s Office of Public Private Partnerships, Fastran and MV Transportation.
As customers entered the store, volunteers greeted them with fliers telling about the food drive and listing the nonperishable items particularly needed. These included canned fruit and vegetables, oatmeal, cereal, sugar, flour, oil, juice boxes, jelly, dry pasta and sauce, and pancake mix and syrup, as well as Baby Wipes, diapers, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste.
One of those volunteers was Mark Knight, a vice president with United Bank in Chantilly. “We’re here lending a hand,” he said. “Fourteen people total came from the bank, and we’ve been distributing fliers and stuffing the bus. The bank, and I, personally, are always looking for noble causes and community outreach – and this fundraiser helps people in need in the community.”
Helping, as well, were Vicki Greene and Lakeshia Lewis, both with the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. Their organization provided the connection between the buses, WFCM and Walmart, to turn the idea for this event into a reality.
“It’s a way of ensuring that our community is taken care of,” explained Greene. “And it’s very fulfilling to do so.” She also noted that Neighborhood and Community Services refers clients to WFCM and even provides caseworkers for them. “We’re a point of first contact,” she added. “We try to be the bridge between the need, the community and the people who can support that need.”
“There’s a close relationship [between the two entities], all year ‘round,” said WFCM Executive Director Harmonie Taddeo. Working at the cash-donation table inside Walmart’s front door, along with Lewis, Greene and the other volunteers, that day, Taddeo was delighted with how well things were going.
“By 2 p.m., we had already collected 955 pounds of food – which were packed into 30 boxes – and a lot of monetary donations,” she said. “And a Chantilly Boy Scout Troop was helping us at the pantry, stocking our shelves with the donated food after it was delivered.”
“We’re always very grateful to Fairfax County and Walmart for their partnership, as well as all the volunteers,” continued Taddeo. “We serve over 400 families each month in the food pantry, so this food and this money make a big difference in being able to keep them fed.”