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Cortland Area Cares (CAC) is a non-profit food pantry, serving needy families and individuals in the Lakeview School District, as well as qualifying members of the supporting area churches.  The food pantry was founded approximately 25 years ago by a group of lay people from several area churches who volunteered their time and resources in providing food to needy families.  CAC continues today as a completely volunteer effort, staffed by a committed Board of Directors and volunteers from the community.

Although CAC is run independently as a 501(c) (3) charitable non-profit organization, it is overseen by the Lakeview Outreach and Fellowship (LOAF).  LOAF is a ministry comprised of 8 local churches, with representatives serving on the CAC Board of Directors.  LOAF has been the primary source of volunteers and they offer some financial support for the food pantry.  Additional funds, however, are received from FEMA, which provides a $1500 a year credit at Second Harvest Food Bank[a], and from a variety of other local organizations through grants and contributions.  There are also contributions from individuals within the community.

The current President of CAC is Debbie King, who has been with the organization for 20 years. She, along with her husband Harry, has been the primary individuals running the day-to-day operations of the pantry for the past 9 years, on a totally voluntary basis.   They also receive nvaluable support from Kay and Bill Aiken, who assist them as needed, along with a staff of 20 excellentvolunteers, who rotate shifts on the monthly distribution day.

Debbie comments that when she took over the management of CAC 9 years ago, "we were serving an average of 40 families.  Right now, our numbers have increased to 160-165 coming regularly, but we have many more registered."

For the most part, the majority of individuals and families they assist are low income, working people and those on disability.  Very few are on straight welfare.  Additionally, a significant number of the individuals CAC assists are senior citizens residing in Cortview Manor and Creekside Commons.

The primary source of food for the CAC pantry is the Second Harvest Food Bank[a] in Youngstown, which is federally subsidized and supplied, and where they can purchase food for $0.10/lb or less, in some cases.   This allows CAC to purchase what would typically be $20 worth of food for only $1.00.  Because food can be purchased at such a low cost, financial contributions to CAC, which are tax deductible, provide the greatest source of support for the pantry to meet the food needs of individuals on a monthly basis.  Unfortunately, the Second Harvest Food Bank doesn't always have the food selection they need to provide well balanced meals; therefore, Debbie and Harry are constantly searching for the best buys and sales in the area to supply the pantry.

During the month of August 2007, CAC served 164 families, which included 78 seniors, 213 adults and 166 children.  Each family was given at least one lawn cart of food and non-perishables, and many large families got two.

Currently, for the first time, CAC is having difficulty keeping their shelves stocked with sufficient quantities of each item to meet the needs of the individuals they assist.  Debbie indicates, "Everyone has been getting 2-3 and even 4 boxes of cereal with several cans of vegetables, fruits, beans and soup, along with numerous other items.  We have noticed that Second Harvest no longer has as many choices, and we are limited as to how many we may buy."

Debbie recently indicated: "For the past 7 months or so, Government food has fallen off to where there is NONE at this point.  Last year, we would be blessed with 3 or 4 free offerings per order.  No dry milk, dry potatoes, spaghetti, noodles, canned meat, etc., has shown up at all.  This week, we have only one item ordered, but will purchase all we can from the shop through bins.  At 10 cents a pound, everything there is a huge bargain.  Bread, oleo, most tea, dish soap, bar soap and toilet tissue must be bought elsewhere each month, unless some of it shows up at Second Harvest.  We have been lucky many weeks to find paper products, personal care items and medicine in bins, when we pick up our order at Second Harvest every Tuesday.  You can be sure we request the 9 o'clock slot every week!!  However, we cannot always have it and sometimes must choose another day for pick up."

"Also, we must expect new clients each month.  It never fails.  Some don't come every time, but if they did, we could easily have 190-200 families.  Serving at this level will be difficult, but we will manage somehow."

Cortland Are Cares is very pleased with the community's recognition of the growing number of needy individuals in our area, and the efforts to assist them financially through the upcoming Community Fundraiser with the Harlem Ambassador exhibition basketball game and show.

Footnotes:

[a] Second Harvest Food Bank is a certified member of America's Second Harvest, the largest domestic hunger relief organization in the nation.

 
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