Dec. 25 , 2006

Delano Helping Hands food shelf is in full force

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

When you picture people who are hungry and cannot afford food on a daily basis, don’t you picture the big city and people sleeping on the streets?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. People all over the country, big and small towns alike, are suffering from hunger, including Delano.

Delano Helping Hands is working hard to try to help the people who are going through tough times, by supplying the necessities of life, food and hygiene products.

Director Sandy Pikus and Volunteer Coordinator Jeanie Pilarski have been volunteering at Helping Hands since fall 2005.

They both felt the need to help by volunteering and taking their time to help the citizens of Delano who are in need.

“There is no reason anyone should go hungry in this community,” Pikus said.

Delano Helping Hands is a non-profit community-based organization created in 1985 by 10 area churches.

The churches responsible for creating Helping Hands were Delano Evangelical Free Church, Mt. Olive Lutheran, Light of Christ Lutheran, St. Joseph’s Catholic, Lyndale Lutheran, St. Peter’s Catholic, Delano Assembly of God, United Methodist, Harvest Outreach Church, and St. Paul’s United Church of Christ.

The participating churches do a lot for Helping Hands, with donations and volunteers.

Each month, a church is assigned to be in charge of volunteer administration, which sends four volunteers from the church to the food shelf each week during the month.

“Behind the scenes volunteers make this happen,” Pikus said.

Along with the churches, local and non-local businesses, organizations, and clubs help with fiscal and food donations. An example of a local business doing their part to help fight hunger would be Coborn’s. Coborn’s has a $5-bag which can be purchased, with all the contents going straight to the food shelf.

“It augments what we can provide,” Pikus said.

Helping Hands also has two special food drives, one in November through December, and the other in March.

The first drive is the holiday food drive, where volunteers collect food and bring out a Thanksgiving and a Christmas basket to families. For Thanksgiving, the food shelf gave baskets to 42 households, and the food shelf is expected to provide baskets to 55 households for Christmas.

“All the local donations we receive stay local, here in Delano,” Pikus said.

The food drive in March takes place during Minnesota FoodShare month. Helping Hands asks local churches, businesses and groups to conduct food drives. Again, food is collected and distributed to families in need.

“Our main objective is to provide daily food and personal hygiene products for emergency use,” Pilarski said.

With Delano growing, Helping Hands is experiencing an increase of use, which means more donations and volunteers are needed.

“Delano is growing and more people are coming,” Pilarski said.

In 2006, Helping Hands provided an average of 2,700 pounds of food per month, and averaged 32 households a month.

With the increase of use, Helping Hands relies on volunteers and donations to keep up.

Donations of food, hygiene products, and money are greatly appreciated by Helping Hands, with money being the best option.

Since Helping Hands is a member of the Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank, that allows it to buy food at nine cents on the dollar.

“Fiscal donations get us further so we can buy cheaper, but we greatly appreciate food donations too,” Pikus said.

If a person or family needs assistance, the process of getting help is just a step away. Just stop in at the food shelf and fill out a form, and everything is confidential.

“Confidentiality is a must,” Pikus said.

Delano Helping Hands food shelf is located in the basement of the Community Education Building at 140 Elm Avenue.

The food shelf is open every Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m., and every third Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m.

For donation and volunteer information, contact Sandy Pikus at (763) 972-3723 or Jeanie Pilarski at (763) 972-3360.

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