The week before Thanksgiving, in a small building behind McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church, about a dozen volunteers organized food and supplies into shopping bags The church-sponsored food bank is open every Tuesday and Thursday to serve Norman-area residents.
Karen Toby, a volunteer who helps operate the food pantry every week, says since they aren’t open on holidays, most of the people come in on Thursday and the following Tuesday to get their food.
“The way we do it is every 14 days you can get everything,” Toby said. “We have some people that come in and get ready-to-eat meals. They can come in every seven days for those.
Some volunteers from the church, like Richard Dennis, have been working with the food bank for years and have become experts at the process- filling bags, reloading and restocking the shelves, whatever needs to be done.
“There’s a group of us that unloads the truck and puts everything away, and there’s a person that does all the ordering and people to help shelve and stack things,” Dennis said. “We even have some diapers and things for young children, and so we get the frozen goods and packaged goods.”
According to Richard Dennis, there is just two restrictions on who can get food from the food pantry.
“Our clients, the people come in, basically they have to be Norman, Little Axe, or Noble resident and they have to have proof of residence and some sort of ID with their face on it,” Dennis said. “We don’t ask income or anything like that, if they’re here they get the food.”
The church moves an average of 650 bags of food every month to families or individuals that come every two weeks.
“So some of those are the same people coming, you know, twice during the month, but a lot of them are just separate individuals or families,” Toby said.
During her time at the food pantry, Karen Toby has heard several stories that inspired her.
“We had one person who rode a bicycle here from I-35 and Indian Hills with a cast on her leg,” Toby said. “We also have had a person who walks back and forth to Oklahoma City to help take care of his mother.”
The part of volunteering at the food pantry that makes it all worth it for Toby is the effect it has on the people who come in she gets from the people served by the food pantry.
“Just those people who say ‘Thank you so much,’ ‘I couldn’t make it without you,’ ‘God bless you,’” Toby said. “You know there’s a lot of gratitude from the people that are here and we’re just happy that we are here to help them.”
McFarlin buys most of their food directly from the Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma City, but is always accepting donations of food, clothing and even time to help out wherever is needed.
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