Sears Food Pantry continues to provide help to area residents

SEARS — Nearly four years ago, Ken Phillips volunteered to help at the Sears Food Pantry.

It wasn't too much later he was handed the keys to the former Orient Township Hall, where the pantry is located, with an aim to serve needs of residents in the Hersey, Evart and Sears area.

"I won't turn anyone away," said Phillips, who serves as chairman of the board of directors for the pantry. "If there is a need, it's the lord's mission to help meet the need. We don't look at people's financials. It's more of a stated need and we try to be there."

Open from 1 to 4 p.m. every Tuesday, Phillips said the donations are usually consistent for a family of four and they try to include meat products, canned vegetables, dry goods like noodles and pasta, and anything else that may be on hand or has been donated.

Normally, Phillips said, the food provides about one week of nutrition.

"I like to have out as much produce if I can," he said. "The fresher the produce the better. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't seem to want it as much as you'd think."

People are allowed three visits to the food pantry, but Phillips said under circumstances, it can be extended to six times.

Over the years, the holidays have been a time when donations allowed Phillips and his volunteers to provide a holiday dinner basket or extra donations for family meals.

"We had to cut back on those because of donations and costs," he said.

Phillips said local businesses have stepped up this year to help donate turkeys and other holiday items like stuffing and cranberry sauce for families.

However, Phillips said there has been a decrease in donations.

"We're not getting as much as we have in the past," he said. "I don't know if it's because people are having tighter budgets now or just feel there's not much of a need for it. The need is there, though."

Phillips points to having to cut the number of canned vegetables they give away.

"We used to give 12 cans of vegetables, but because of donations and costs, we've had to cut that in half over the past year," he said. "We've had to cut a lot of our donations."

Phillips couldn't pinpoint an exact reason why, but he gets the sense people still are unsure of what the future will hold.

"The main thing is to keep the doors open and to be there for the community and help out," he said. "I'd hate the thought of somebody not having enough food and going hungry.

Phillips said the pantry couldn't remain open without the help of his volunteers. From those who help with deliveries from bigger organizations like Feed America, or being there to help with operations, stocking shelves and bagging donations. There also are those who help with maintenance for the building.

"If there are folks interested in helping, we are more than willing to welcome them aboard and let them try it out," he said. "They can contact me to help, make a donation or take it to the pantry on Tuesday."

Phillips said Movies N More in Evart also serves as a drop-off site for donations, and is open from 9 a.m to 9 p.m.

"We also can accept monetary or food donations for the pantry," he said. "We don't specify. It's better to let folks make the decision on what they can give."

Phillips said there is a need to help those in the community.

"I'm not foolish enough to think that we're taking care of everybody," he said. "There are some people who are not aware we are here. We try to get the word out as much as possible and keep people aware that we're here.

"I really appreciate the support of the community, because what they give us helps us take care of the whole community."

For more information, contact Phillips at (231) 620-2504 or visit the Sears Food Pantry on Facebook.