Community food drive helps provide commodities for pantry

Donations collected by Tabernacle resident go to United Methodist Church

Every day when Karen Malone checks her mailbox, she wanders over to the street corner, and sorts through the pounds of donated gets for her food drive aptly named, 45 Lee Drive Food Drive (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

The COVID-19 has resulted in families experiencing job loss, sickness and shortages of food.

To help, Tabernacle resident Karen Malone has restarted her food drive.

The effort, called 45 Lee Drive Food Drive, was birthed after Malone’s daughter pondered why food drives start in the holiday season but are not always extended through the rest of the year.

The Malone family doesn’t have extraordinary means, but they had enough gumption to collect goods for the free food bank at Tabernacle United Methodist Church,

“That’s a Christian church and I am personally not Christian, and people ask me why I work with them,” Malone noted. “It’s a human being thing to do.

“You help others when you can.”

The church pantry appealed to Malone because it helps people regardless of  income or living status. Families have access to food in a town far from larger facilities like the Food Bank of South Jersey.

Social distancing is observed as Malone keeps a sign and containers on the corner of her property, away from her family, and neighbors far and wide drop off cereals, soups, pet food and personal hygiene products. Items are sorted by Malone and her family before they are packed into the family’s Jeep and brought to the church. She has collected at least 120 bags of food.

“It’s almost like Christmas, where I’ll come out and be like ‘Oh my God, we got boxes,’” Malone enthused. “”Someone will text me to let me know they have things for me and I’ll say, ‘Yay! We can’t wait to go through them!’

“It’s almost like a celebration when I see them. I know it sounds corny, but it really is. My heart weeps every time I see the amount of donations.”

Donated food items must not be less than six months from expiration and unopened. Malone asks donors for “fun” foods, such as Fruit Loops, cake mix and snack-size Cheetos so families have some variety.

Malone does not accept monetary donations. Instead, donors can issue a check to the church directly and write “food pantry” on the memo line.

Some dropoffs to the church have afforded Malone an opportunity to learn from families about their situations since the COVID-19 quarantine started. One conversation was with a grandfather who asked for food “for the first time in his life” to help feed the three grandchildren he is raising. He explained to Malone that the food was for the grandchildren and not himself.

“People like him make me think, ‘Yeah, this is why I do this,'” Malone shared.

Others who are more fortunate have gone out of their way to supply goods for the pantry, including a family whose father’s job was paying time and a half plus hazard pay and a mother whose employment was not affected by the pandemic.

Donating food is a way to pay it forward, according to Malone, who was a food recipient herself nearly 20 years ago. The 45 Lee Drive Food Drive is also an outlet for volunteers as other charities have been closed because of the pandemic.

“There are a lot of people who want to help,” Malone said. “They just don’t know where to help and what to do.

“I like to think our food drive is the middle man and gives people who want to help a place to do it.”