Funny River residents lend hand at food bank

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2000

The Funny River Road Chamber of Commerce and Community Association saw a need in the community and moved to help meet it.

What the association saw was the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank's soup kitchen feeding dozens of men, women and children each day.

What the association did to meet that need is set up a partnership of sorts with the food bank to operate the soup kitchen for one day at least once a month.

According to Funny River resident and association member Beth Boucher, the arrangement works out well for the food bank.

"We buy the food that we prepare that day and we provide the labor," Boucher said. "Then we get donations (for the food bank), too."

The partnership began in January. Last month, the community association worked in the soup kitchen three times.

Boucher said the frequency with which the association members will help at the kitchen depends on how many are available.

"We volunteered to go in when we could," Boucher said.

Boucher said the association usually have around a dozen people working to fill the 50 bowls the kitchen tops off on an average day.

"I think it's something that's very important," Boucher said. "The people who are participating think it's great."

Peggy Moore, director of the food bank, said the association's involvement has been a success.

"They came in to do it on a trial basis," Moore said. "They liked it."

Moore said the Funny River association is the first such group to volunteer at the kitchen, although there are many volunteers.

"We have quite a few people who come in regularly," she said. "There are a couple of families that home school their kids that come in.

"We don't have any other groups that come in on a regular basis."

Moore said any time volunteers staff the soup kitchen, the food bank saves money and time in a variety of ways.

"We do have full-time employees who work in the soup kitchen," she said.

When there are volunteers, the paid employees are freed up to work elsewhere in the food bank, Moore said.

Because the community association also provides food, the food bank can forward what would have been used to others in need.

"The more participation like that you get," Boucher said, "the less (the food bank has) to use donated food."

Boucher said the association is considering becoming a sponsor -- paying for one day's operation of the kitchen each month.

Moore said it costs roughly $100 to operate the soup kitchen each day. She said several businesses have taken part in the "meal-a-month" sponsorship program, which allows a group or business to pay for one day of the soup kitchen each month.

"We put a plaque on the wall recognizing the sponsors," Moore said. "It's a real encouragement for (the people using the kitchen) to see that people in the community care."

Boucher said the 175-member association will stay involved with the soup kitchen on some level.

"We will continue to do this on a long-term basis," she said.

Boucher also said she hopes other groups are encouraged by the Funny River residents' involvement.

"There may be other groups here on the peninsula that may be able to do what we're doing," she said.

Moore said she hopes other groups are inspired to help in some way.

"I think most people are unaware of the need in the community," she said. "(Having volunteer groups come in) is a great way to raise awareness."

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