Things are a little different this holiday season, and that includes fundraising efforts designed to bring cheer to local families.
In past years, Your Place At The Table (YPATT) – the food pantry housed at Trinity United Methodist Church in Mullica Hill – provided toys and items to needy residents. A tree adorned with tags at the church would help fulfill that mission, as those who wanted to help purchased the gifts detailed.
The format has changed in 2020, but one thing has remained the same: YPATT is still brightening the holidays for local residents.
In lieu of purchasing items this year, YPATT asks that those who wish to help instead purchase gift cards. There are few constraints: The nonprofit simply asks for gift cards that can be used locally at stores such as Target, Walmart, Wawa and Dollar Tree. Any denomination is welcome.
“It’s more than just about a gift card,” Kristen Skrobanek said.
The YPATT founder and president explained that the setup not only keeps volunteers and donors safe, but also provides chances for families to shop for their own children.
“They get to share in the joy of Christmas,” she noted.
YPATT grew out of a Bible-study project at Trinity UMC attended by Skrobanek. The group decided to assemble boxes of food for local families. But after delivering the gifts, Skrobanek felt conflicted.
“As I drove away, I should have had a good feeling in my heart,” she recalled.
Instead, Skrobanek wondered how she could feel good knowing families would still need food again the following month. After giving it more thought, she decided to stop wondering and figure out a way to help.
She founded YPATT in 2012 to provide food once a month to local families – single individuals, senior citizens, young families with children and everyone in between – living in Harrison Township, Mantua, South Harrison Township, East Greenwich and Elk Township. YPATT is not designed to provide food for the entire month, but instead supplement to help families get through.
“I’m definitely proud of this as an organization and as a community,” Skrobanek said, explaining YPATT does not receive any federal funding or food from the state. “We collected over 25,000 pounds of food last year. That’s all the community, and I think it’s amazing.”
As far as food donations for the holidays this year, YPATT finds itself in a fortunate position. Generosity has abounded in recent weeks and shelves are full. Skrobanek said she hopes the giving picks up again in January, when it historically drops off, to benefit people who may be in need because of rising utility bills.
What YPATT really needs now are gift cards, and so far, the community is answering the call.
“It’s been amazing,” Skrobanek noted.
People are getting creative in their ways to help, too. YPATT volunteer Jayne Gandy and her family helped to raise $1,500 in gift cards by running a Venmo challenge, where Grandy asked for donations and promised to run one mile for each person who gave. That amounted to an impressive 27 miles for Gandy to run (with a little help from her family).
“She always has such great ideas,” Skrobanek said.
YPATT needs to collect enough gift cards to support about 80 families. In addition to residents, the pantry finds support from local groups and organizations, including Harrison Township, Woman’s Club of Mullica Hill and Cub Scouts.
Skrobanek is grateful for everyone who supports YPATT, not just for the gift card drive, but all year long. She said people are eager to help and like knowing donations go to residents in their own community.
Running YPATT is undoubtedly a lot of work, but Skrobanek doesn’t look at it that way.
“I think God placed it on my heart,” she said. “I just enjoy helping others.”
For more information about the gift card drive, including how to donate a gift card or make a monetary contribution, visit ypatt.org. Donations can also be sent via Venmo @ypatt.