The Pantry Shelf

Nonfood items are also distributed by The Pantry Shelf.

The need for food and supplies seems to be increasing at the Pantry Shelf.

Linda Ornelas, aka Mo-Mo, manager of the Pantry Shelf, said reopening at the beginning of July started out slow. However, demand has picked up in August and early September.

The pandemic led the operation to shut down in March and now makes it much different than in the past.

“People can’t go in. We bring the food out,” Ornelas said. “We take the volunteers’ temperature every morning.”

The organization is made up of all volunteers with four or five people who come in consistently, Ornelas said. The Pantry Shelf has similar challenges that face other businesses and nonprofits with elderly staff and helpers.

“Some are up there in age and some may have medical issues or a spouse with medical issues,” she said. “We don’t want any of these to be exposed to the virus. But some still come in regularly since we opened.”

With the dedicated volunteers the pantry was able to reopen but with a lot of changes.

“We had to reduce our hours. We are now open Wednesdays and Fridays, noon to 2 p.m. When it starts picking up we will probably go back to three days a week.”

The need for food and other items is definitely there, but perhaps in isolation those needing it didn’t realize help was available anywhere.

“I think they didn’t realize we were back open,” she said. “The first to come back were mostly the large families, with six to eight children. More recently we’ve been getting the families of two or three and some singles. The word is out now people are letting everyone know. They may have gotten behind in the rent or whatever and they’re trying to get caught up and this is a way they’re able to get food.”

Distinguishing the Pantry Shelf from many other food distribution centers is the variety of goods available.

“We have toiletries. We may be the only food bank that has them,” Ornelas said.

“We are open those two hours. Our volunteer goes out masked and signs them up. We used to have a menu and people could choose what they wanted. We can’t do that now,” Ornelas said. “We give them a pre-packed box. In the past they had to have a food card from Helpline. Helpline has been closed so they’re not giving out food cards right now.”

Those in need can go to a food bank three times a month. Stock is continually replenished.

“We have several people who bring us fresh produce every day we’re open. We’re still accepting donations of any kind, just give us a call,” she said. “We do have delivery service for those who are homebound. A person, masked, generally leaves it at the door.”

Karlene Ponti can be reached at karleneponti@wwub.com or 509-526-8324.

Karlene Ponti began as Special Publications Writer in 1999, work includes Lifestyles, The Weekly and Business Monthly. After Wa-Hi, Ponti attended Whitman and is a UW graduate. Later she was ordained a Christian minister at CDM Spiritual Teaching Center.