Divide the food basket helps

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The Divide Food Basket has been serving the community for over 25 years, providing much needed support with food baskets for those in need.

Food is provided no questions asked. Gary Johnson has been with the group for over 20 years and is currently its chairman. He first worked with Nancy Mundt for the first few years and as Nancy left the community she was asked who was going to take the DFB.

She said, “Gary is! And that’s how Johnson became the coordinator. Johnson says, “I don’t join a lot of organizations, but the ones I do join because I like to know what’s going on. I had a long career with the Boy Scouts as a regional commissioner. In the San Francisco Bay Area, I was involved in church and was an ex-buzzer of the Clamps.

The DFB Food Ministry is part of the Georgetown United Methodist Church. Johnson says, “We have eight or nine churches actively involved. Kelsey Church recently got involved.

At first the DFB was small but very active at Christmas. Now it’s all year round. Johnson says, “We keep an eye out for different needs throughout the year to help community members. The DFB is also doing other things, such as recently providing money to a local church to help fight vandalism.

When the DFB started, food was collected at Georgetown Elementary School and Raley’s was donated annually; the DFB continued to grow.

The House of Prayer receives food from the El Dorado County Food Bank and other donation sites receive food from the Placer Food Bank. Johnson says, “We buy our food at a great price. They treated us very well. There are three locations for the distribution of food baskets year round on the Divide – Calvary Chapel in Greenwood, House of Prayer in Garden Valley, and The United Methodist Church in Georgetown.

A particularly important aspect of the DFB is the annual Divide Christmas Food Basket. There are so many elements to this project that it is a testament to Johnson’s organizational skills to make it all run smoothly. It’s also a family affair as Johnson’s wife, Mary Ellen, is involved and coordinates Angel’s gifts, bikes and toys, and takes care of the distribution of these to the Methodist Church. .

The DCB has evolved over time with distribution initially managed at VFW Hall. As the turnout grew, it moved to the IOOF hall. Bernie Bilodoeau, IOOF member, organized the use of the room.

Johnson says: “Larry Morgan and the IOOF treated us well and do a great job.” DCB also obtains its food from the Placer Food Bank and DCB also pays for this food. During this time of year, DCB hosts food drives like the one recently held at Golden Sierra High School. Other funds come from people’s cash donations and donations from Mar-Val Turkey Bucks. Mar-Val and Holiday Market also generously organize their branded products in bags where customers can purchase a bag which is collected by DCB and added to the merchandise for the food baskets. Canned hams, also purchased in Mar-Val, are part of the food basket.

This year’s DCB drive-through distribution will take place on December 17th. Starting Tuesday of this week, the House of Prayer is donating a truck and driver and the food is collected at the Placer Food Bank. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday volunteers begin to organize merchandise, with each volunteer having a pre-assigned task. The group found that fewer people with knowledge of their duties work better than many volunteers.

This is the second year of running the event as a drive-thru and they have found it to be safer and more efficient. Even the church, Pastor Linda Jamieson, gets involved, distributing dog biscuits and cat food. Johnson gives special recognition and says, “David Justice is dedicated to this week and his people are directing traffic and help where it’s needed. We have radios to keep in touch.

In order to ensure the smooth running of the distribution, families are allocated a collection time spaced every 15 minutes. Check-in takes place at St. James Catholic Church, where coats, blankets and similar items are distributed. Volunteers communicate by radio to the IOOF that the recipient is approaching them and transmit the number assigned to them. Volunteers will have the food basket waiting to be put in the recipient’s car.

Justice helps with the logistics by coordinating the three different sites, the latest being the Methodist Church, where reconditioned bikes, Angel gifts and toys are distributed. No one is refused, but children from families who have registered will receive a wrapped Angel gift up to the age of 17. Toys are also distributed to families who have not registered. It really is a team effort as Neill Boitnott coordinates the toy pickup and Bill Wheeler takes care of the bike pickup and reconditioning.

There is usually a question which is, “What happens to the goods that are left over?” Johnson says, “The goal is to donate every can, but sometimes we have a few baskets of food left that we send to Calvary Church or the House of Prayer for distribution the following week. Every donation they receive is distributed. The remaining toys go to Birthday Buddies. During the year, Cindy Gaffney, a public health nurse, brings toys to the homes she visits.

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