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Elmer Duckinfield: A Volunteer Ahead of His Time

“I grew up in the city. I couldn’t grow a tomato if I tried,” laughs Elmer Duckinfield, when asked what inspired him to become Chester County’s first official farm gleaning volunteer back in 1996. Elmer’s humility, dedication and quick humor become evident as we explored the origin of one of our most successful campaigns to get fresh produce into the hands of those experiencing food insecurity in our area.

Though Elmer, an octogenarian, has considered himself officially retired from the volunteer circuit for the past four years, back in 1996 an idea was brewing and Elmer was quick to embrace it and become a welcome fixture in our community.

In the 90’s, food cupboards were lightly scattered within some of the larger towns of the county, but most of the hard work involved in food donations was done by church volunteer groups, scout food drives and the annual holiday collection.

At the time, Andrew Dinniman, a county commissioner and now a state senator, saw a need to do more. He knew exactly whom he could request to get the job done. “Who says no to Andy?” says Elmer, who had recently retired from Burroughs Corp. when he was tapped to lead the new effort.

Elmer and Senator Dinniman have known each other for many years. Elmer continues, “He has a way of supporting people, and putting a level of confidence in you that makes you want to succeed. We believed that if we approached some of our county’s local farmers, we could find a way to gather the excess large volume crop yield that sometimes went uncollected. Produce like potatoes, peppers, onions and corn were prime targets.”

Thus, the Chester County “gleaning program” idea was born and eventually blossomed into one of the largest fresh produce generators for the county. Today, we see the Food Bank distributing about 200,000 pounds annually to community partners who in turn reach over 40,000 men, women and children in Chester County.

Pete’s Produce in Westtown was one of the first farms that Elmer “staffed” with volunteers. Owner Pete Flynn agreed to set aside several acres for the Gleaning Program that still exists today. “I remember quite a few times leaving the farm at the end of the day and Elmer would still be in the fields with stacks of produce to deliver to the Food Bank,” says Pete. “Even if he was a few volunteers short, he worked hard to get the job done and never once complained.”

Soliciting volunteers was something that Elmer had little experience with early on. He worked with the Grove Methodist Church initially to come up with lists of names. “There were no computers or cell phones back then. I did everything with pen, paper and my ear to the phone,” says Elmer. “I had to make schedules and have people ready to go when the crops were ready. There was no time to wait. I was so very fortunate with the many volunteers that have helped with gleaning over the years. They are the ones that make it all possible and worthwhile.”

Longtime volunteers Ed and Mary Fitzpatrick say, “We originally volunteered to assist Elmer with bread and pastries donations from Entenmann’s Bakery, which we boxed and loaded into cars or vans from the various agencies. One day, we discovered that Elmer was heading out to one of the produce farms in the area for some ‘real work’ and we were hooked. It was not unusual to arrive at the site to find he had already started the more difficult tasks himself. When he recruited us to come out at a certain hour, we knew to arrive much earlier because he would have started alone.”

Today, the Chester County Food Bank still requires volunteers to work alongside their staff farmers, Bill Shick and Edil Cunampio. Lots of people, like you, who only need devote a few hours or more to making a difference whether it’s planting or harvesting from one of our now many partnered farms or working in our Eagleview location in the kitchen. As our honorary volunteer chairperson Elmer so simply and wholeheartedly illustrates, thinking outside of ourselves creates an opportunity to improve the quality of lives for others. Elmer and his diverse team are also proof that volunteers of all ages and interests are needed and welcomed. Love to garden? Great! Prefer to help elsewhere along the food chain? That works, too.

Those who speak of Elmer refer to his humility. Never one to take credit for being the first to arrive in the field or the last to leave, Elmer also trained all the volunteers and helped deliver fresh produce from the back of a station wagon.

Elmer has bounced back from hip, cataract and heart surgery. His story continues to serve as a reminder to all of us of how dedication, creativity and hard work generate positive results for our community. Thank you, Elmer. We appreciate you.

Editor’s Note: Elmer lost his brave and quiet battle with cancer on May 6, 2017, surrounded by his beloved family. We vow to carry on his legacy.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or request a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites, schools and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our communityto ensure access to real, healthy food.

Ed Williams

Top photo by Ed Williams

Your Year-End Deductions Can Make a Difference in Chester County

Looking to squeeze in another tax deduction before 2016 is but a memory? We’ll take it! Your year-end donation makes a world of difference for those served by the Chester County Food Bank.

Your gift of any size helps us provide nutritious, healthy food to our hungry neighbors. This year, our generous donors enabled us to distribute 2.3 million pounds of food and feed more than 50,000 people in Chester County. Learn more about the many ways we support our community!

We can’t emphasize it enough: every gift of every size helps. We’re inspired by individual donors like 9-year-old Nate Hyson, who raises funds to feed babies; thankful for business partners like Wegmans and its Check Out for Hunger campaign; and honored to have community partners like the Brandywine Valley Water Garden Tour, which raises funds on our behalf.

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Won’t you join other donors and help us continue to serve in 2017? The holidays shine a light on our neighbors in need, but the cold reality is that they can use a helping hand all year long. You can donate by year’s end in a number of ways:

Thank you for considering the Chester County Food Bank when making a last-minute, tax-deductible donation. Here’s to a safe and healthy 2017!

Nina Malone

Meals on Wheels + CCFB = Serving Our Neighbors

One of our most rewarding programs is with our friends at Meals on Wheels of Chester County. Through this partnership, we make sure 2,000 meals move through Meals on Wheels each month.

“We enjoy being able to do this, and especially hearing the stories that come back from volunteers,” said Chester County Food Bank‘s Food Drive & Procurement Coordinator Claudia Rose-Muir. “It’s heartwarming to hear compliments like, ‘That pot roast reminds me of my mom’s. I even attended one woman’s 100th birthday party.  It’s so rewarding to see the difference we make.”

The Chester County Food Bank prepares hot meals for three Meals on Wheels of Chester County chapters. That food is delivered to county residents by volunteers Monday through Friday, predominantly seniors. The drop-off also helps to combat loneliness and isolation with a friendly visit and a safety check. Anyone, regardless of age or economic status, who is homebound, handicapped, or convalescing from an illness or operation and is unable to prepare a nutritious meal, is eligible to receive Meals on Wheels.

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We also provide Meals on Wheels of Chester County frozen meals with accompaniments: juice, bread and butter, and a snack. This is separate from the Monday through Friday volunteer deliveries; these boxes include five meals and sides that we deliver to Meals on Wheels of Chester County for distribution as needed.

“This program is a small revenue stream for the Chester County Food Bank,” Claudia added. “We are always in need of donations of food, money and time to keep our programs running and to serve our Chester County neighbors.”

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. Need Meals on Wheels of Chester County’s services, or know someone who could use a hand? Call (610) 873-6000.

Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community. 

Nina Malone

Hunters: Share the Harvest with Your Food Bank

Did you know there’s a program that helps make sure interested hunters may share their bounty with those less fortunate? The Chester County Food Bank was grateful to receive 5,150 pounds of venison in 2015, thanks to Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) and generous local hunters.

HSH is a charitable program that connects hunters with butchers across Pennsylvania who are dedicated to getting venison, a healthful lean protein, to local food banks. This initiative, combined with local hunters’ fundraising and advocacy efforts, puts food on the tables of Pennsylvania’s less fortunate.

Art Lyle of Backyard Bucks has been a longtime supporter of the effort and our Food Bank. He says the group’s members are delighted they can help by simply doing something they love: hunting. For him, however, it goes deeper.

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“The main reason I got involved was that I grew up in a family of six, and we didn’t always have food—or not much of it,” Art explained. “There were some times we would eat bread or rice, and other times we went to food banks. I always said if I could ever find a way to give back, I would. That extends to Backyard Bucks: We just believe it’s the right thing.”

Art offered these tips for other hunters’ groups that might be interested in helping the Chester County Food Bank:

  • Ask all attending your fundraising event to bring three nonperishable food items. Those who do can get raffle tickets for a chance to win a crossbow, muzzleloader or other prize. This is a great way to collect a lot of nonperishables for the food bank.
  • Encourage each hunter to make a difference by harvesting at least one extra deer and donating it.
  • Help identify property owners willing to open their land to hunters. In particular, properties where nonprofits like Backyard Bucks can hunt free of charge are greatly needed.

Hunters and hunters’ clubs looking to get involved may reach out to the following HSH participating butchers:

  • Countryside Butchering, 269 Long Ln., Honey Brook, PA 19344; 610-273-2629
  • Fisher’s Butcher Shop, 48 Furnace Rd., Quarryville, PA 17566; 717-786-7398
  • Foresta’s Market, 1098 W. Bridge St., Phoenixville, PA 19460; 610-935-1777
  • Noble Road Butcher Shop, 1553 Noble Rd., Kirkwood, PA 17536; 717-529-9031
  • Smokers Custom Butchering, 12 Old Leacock Rd., Ronks, PA 17572; 717-768-7046

Of course, the Chester County Food Bank is also grateful for gifts of nonperishables, grocery store gift cards and financial donations, too. We greatly appreciate our hunter friends who embrace the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program—as do our food cupboards and their clients.

Volunteers Collecting Food Donations In Warehouse

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank collects, stores and distributes food to over 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations. Since our beginning in 2009, we have increased distribution over 119% by distributing 2.5 million pounds of food. The Food Bank partners with donors, volunteers, farmers, schools and businesses to address hunger and food insecurity with compassion and creativity.

Nina Malone

Photos: BigStock

Our Challenge: How You Can Become a Holiday Hero

The holiday season seems to be thrust upon us more quickly every year. The hustle and bustle harbor the anticipation of family, friends and delicious holiday feasts with toasts of good cheer, warm laughter and cherished memories.

The challenge.

It’s difficult for us to imagine what it feels like to not be able to have these amazing banquets, to not be able to provide the resources or the money to plan a basic nourishing holiday meal for our family—meals that we many times take for granted.

Our challenge for you is this: Don’t eat anything for eight hours. No protein bars. Skip the fruit and nuts. Omit that nutritious shake. Go ahead and try it. Observe how empty your stomach feels, how light your head seems and how difficult it is to maintain even a bit of focus toward the end of the day.

For many of our own Chester County neighbors—multiply those eight hours into days, weeks or perhaps months.

Think of it this way. Eight hours is also the average amount of time required to take part in creating a successful food drive with the Chester County Food Bank. It may not sound like a huge investment from you, but the positive impact is exponential for us—and for our communities. We need you to be our hero.

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Get involved. It’s easy.

You want to be involved but where do you begin? How do you plan a food drive during the busy holiday season? What resources do you need?

Whether you wish to conduct a smaller solo effort or to coordinate a more massive drive to include friends, family and coworkers, we have it all spelled out simply on our easy-to-navigate website. Take a look at our online tool kit that includes the information you’ll need.

To make the process go even more smoothly—simply register your food drive with us via our convenient email.

Specific holiday items are always beneficial this time of year and include frozen turkeys, canned vegetables, fruit, cranberry sauce and gravies, as well as packaged instant potatoes and boxed stuffing. Focus on collecting one item by itself if it makes it easier. We’ll accept it all. In fact, we will also accept the receipts for free turkeys that some neighborhood grocery stores provide to frequent shoppers in addition to actual frozen turkeys.  We’ve even added Saturday drop off hours – we will be open Saturdays in November (9a-noon) leading up to Thanksgiving accepting food donations.

Still not sure what additional things to collect? Check out our year-round food and breakfast needed items. We encourage you to participate in this year’s Chester County Housing & Food for All 365 National Hunger Homelessness Awareness Week events (November 12-19).

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Be a hero. Donate.

We certainly realize how valuable your personal time is and we do understand if you cannot commit to organizing a food drive at this time, but we continue to need your involvement. You still have the opportunity to be a community hero by simply donating.

Our dedicated team of staff members and volunteers is willing to assist you to become a true holiday hero for our own neighbors. Call us at (610) 873-6000 with any questions you may have and thank you for your sincere support.

Sign up for our in-depth newsletter and be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for up-to-the-minute information.

The Chester County Food Bank is  the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 partner agencies in Chester County, Pa. Through our network of food cupboardshot meal sites, shelters and other social service organizations, we distribute over 2.5 million pounds to our neighbors with limited or uncertain access to adequate food. We also take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community. Visit our Nutrition Education page to learn about how our programs are making inroads in the fight against hunger. We are located at 650 Pennsylvania Dr., Exton, Pa. 19341.

Ed Williams

Make a (Bigger!) Difference in October: WSFS Will Match All Donations Up to $5,000

We value all our partners, but this month we’re particularly grateful for WSFS Bank. The community-minded financial institution is celebrating our community-friendly website by matching all donations made in October 2016.

It’s simple: WSFS will match donations up to $5,000. That means it’s never been a better time to give. As we head into colder weather and the holiday season, Chester County’s less fortunate folks need even more help from the Chester County Food Bank.

“The members of the WSFS Bank Pennsylvania Advisory Board are happy to provide their annual donation for this matching challenge grant to the Chester County Food Bank,” said Vernita Dorsey, WSFS senior vice president and director of community strategy. “The opportunity to maximize the impact of our $5000 gift is one that we simply could not pass up. We believe our caring community partners will embrace the challenge and double this gift.”

The Chester County Food Bank runs on contributions, and we’re proud to say 89 percent of all donations go directly to costs that provide access to healthy food for those struggling with food insecurity.

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We rely on generosity from individuals, organizations and corporations so we can continue to:

  • Offer our innovative programs
  • Address the root causes of hunger
  • Provide advocacy and education
  • Maintain equipment and trucks
  • Purchase food in bulk
  • And so much more!

“This new partnership between WSFS and the Food Bank strengthens our community and furthers the awareness of hunger and food insecurity in Chester County. The match that WSFS is offering is a ‘carrot’ to the community inviting them to donate dollars to make an even bigger impact to fight hunger,” said Larry Welsch, executive director.

We can’t say it enough: We’re grateful to WSFS for standing with us to fight hunger in Chester County! Join in with a donationAny amount makes a difference.

Want to be in the know about what we’re doing in your community? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank collects, stores and distributes food to over 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations. Since our beginning in 2009, we have increased distribution over 119% by distributing 2.5 million pounds of food. The Food Bank partners with donors, volunteers, farmers, schools and businesses to address hunger and food insecurity with compassion and creativity.

Nina Malone

Take a Tour Through Our New Website

We’re busting-at-the-seams proud of our new website and its simple (but fun!) layout. Our goal was to make the site easy to navigate so our community can more easily engage with the Chester County Food Bank.

Take a stroll through the site and learn about us, our food sourcesprograms and education and community partners. You’ll find the latest on our Fresh2You Mobile Market and how to host a food drive (check out our new food drive toolkit!). But most importantly, you can quickly access how to find foodget involved and donate:

Click on Need Food? to find a local food provider or hot meal site.

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Click on Get Involved to learn about how you can make a difference right in your own backyard.

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Click on Donate to provide much needed funds to keep our programs strong and to serve those in need.

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More exciting news—our friends at WSFS bank are matching donations during the month of October! It’s their way of celebrating our new web presence.

Want to be in the know about what we’re doing in your community? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

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The Chester County Food Bank collects, stores and distributes food to over 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations. Since our beginning in 2009, we have increased distribution over 119% by distributing 2.5 million pounds of food. The Food Bank partners with donors, volunteers, farmers, schools and businesses to address hunger and food insecurity with compassion and creativity.

Nina Malone

Get Involved: 4 Ways You Can Help the Food Bank This Fall

Now that the kids are back at school, the Chester County Food Bank—a local nonprofit organization that collects, grows, purchases, processes, stores and distributes food to over 120 food cupboards and meal sites throughout the county—has some immediate needs so that they can help to feed the hungry in our community. While you may be dreaming of pumpkin spice lattes, there are people in our own neighborhoods who don’t know when they will get their next nutritious meal. Here are a few ways you can help:

Weekday Volunteers

Dedicated students helped out all summer in the kitchen and at area farms. Now that these students are back to school, the Food Bank has many available shifts for weekday volunteers. This is a great opportunity if you’ve been looking to join in and help.

Signing up to volunteer is easy via the online volunteer calendar. Once you create a profile, you can register for the workdays of your choosing.

The Food Bank is also accepting group volunteer requests for shifts now until December. This is a great activity for a church, business or moms’ club to give back to the community. Email volunteer@chestercountyfoodbank.org today with three potential dates, as well as your preferred time and location—kitchen or farm. It’s that simple!

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Weekend Backpack Program

Did you know the Chester County Food Bank has a weekend backpack program for food-insecure students? The program helps children get nutritious and easy-to-prepare food so that they don’t go hungry over the weekend. At the discretion of school officials, food is offered not only to students eligible for free or reduced meals, but also to students who fall within the gap of ineligibility for the school meal subsidy programs.

Volunteers are needed to pack resealable bags with a rotating variety of shelf-stable food items that the Food Bank distributes weekly from October through May to 10 school districts in Chester County, including after-school programs and Head Start sites.

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Back to School Food Drive

Heading back to school is a great time for food drives! Whether through a sports team, an on-campus service organization or a theater performance group, there are so many opportunities to get students involved in the issue of food insecurity. It’s a great time for companies to participate in back to school-themed food drives, too. The most needed items currently are pasta, rice, canned tuna and chicken, cereal, oatmeal and canned fruit and vegetables. Visit the Food Bank’s website for more information on how to host a successful food drive.

Donate

Short on time and can’t volunteer? No problem! The Chester County Food Bank accepts monetary donations to support all of its programs. Your financial contribution helps the Food Bank serve our Chester County neighbors who struggle with hunger and food insecurity. Cash donations support innovative programs to address the root causes of hunger through advocacy and education. Monetary donations also allow Chester County Food Bank to purchase bulk food and fresh produce.

Donating is easy. Contact us via email or phone (610-873-6000) or donate directly online.

To find out more about programs, news and how to get involved with Chester County Food Bank, visit the organization’s website and be sure to follow along on Facebook.

The Chester County Food Bank is located at 650 Pennsylvania Dr. in Exton; phone: (610) 873-6000.