Stan Summerfield
Stan Summerfield
Stan Summerfield with part of the Rotary contributions for the Community Cupboard.
"There to help, not to judge"
Food pantry aids 3,600 families in Teays Valley

December 23, 2008

On a budget of $24,000 to $30,000 each year, the Christian Community Cupboard assisted 3,600 Teays Valley families last year, up from 3,400 the year before.

"There may be some duplications in those numbers," Stan Summerfield admitted to Putnam Rotarians today, "but it's not our job to make judgements. If they live in a certain geographical area and if they meet certain financial circumstances, we offer help to them."

On the other side of the Kanawha River, another food pantry operates in Nitro. A pantry in Buffalo moved to Eleanor and then to Poca where it operates now out of the Poca United Methodist Church.

The Community Cupboard opened in 1982 under the sponsorship of fourteen churches of the Teays Valley Ministerial Association.

Open Tuesdays and Fridays at from 10:00 to noon, the pantry sees about thirty families each day of operation. Those in need are allowed a visit every thirty days. "Sometimes we let that slide a bit," he said.

"Some people may abuse the service," Summerfield repeated, "but it's not our place to judge. We are there to help.

"I've seen men come in with tears in their eyes because they lost a job. They are ashamed to come in and ask for help, but they have hungry children at home.

"One woman came in, said 'My husband was hurt on the job. Unemployment doesn't start for two more weeks. We don't have any food in the house.'

"We had a family [which] came in from another state. Homeless. Married 13 years with three kids. They were living in a van. Didn't have a roof over their heads.

"Not only were they without food, they didn't have anything to cook in, or a place to cook it," said Summerfield. "People in the community found a place for them to live, got them some appliances, and found the man a job."

Many of the goods which pass through the Cupboard are donated by churches -- detergent, shampoo and cleaning supplies as well as groceries.

Eight months out of each year, commodities are provided by the US Department of Agriculture. "We never know what the USDA is going to give us," he told the group, "but we get 4,000 to 10,000 pounds of food in any given month."

Scouting sponsors a food drive each fall. So do Postal Service employees.

Once a week from mid-January to mid-March, foodstuffs are contributed by Charleston's United Food Organization, an all-volunteer group which supplies 12 area food pantries.

Several schools also collect food for the Community Cupboard, Summerfield said. "Hurricane Middle School collected 5,400 cans of food over the last four weeks."

The operating account was down to $64 during the recent Thanksgiving season, but a businessman came in and gave the Cupboard two checks each for $2,000, a contribution from each of two corporations he owned.

There was a shortage of meat, but a local grocery store was able to donate 130 24-to-26-pound turkeys. "We had to take some of them up to the [Saint Timothy's] Episcopal Church to store them."

Summerfield, a science teacher retired from Buffalo High School, began volunteer work at the Community Cupboard five or six years ago. "Hands-on is more important than handing out money," he says.

And, we might add, money is no substitute for the personal attention and assistance that comes through a direct personal commitment.

The Christian Community Cupboard is located at 2845 Virginia Avenue in Hurricane, behind Forrest Burdette United Methodist Church. Hours are Tuesdays and Fridays from 10:00 to noon. The Forrest Burdette representative, Eddie Ellison, may be reached at 743-9832.

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