Helping those in need
Phil and Vonnie Degenstein have spent the past 25 years feeding the hungry through the Pierce County Food Pantry.
Why have they done it for so long?
“Just seeing the kids gather around and look through the food box, you know that what you brought is going to be their food for the next week, it pulls at the heartstrings,”said Vonnie
Phil, a retired master plumber with his own business, worked full-time for the North Dakota National Guard from 1984 1998. The Degensteins were part of a Family Support Group that started distributing government commodities to families who needed a little extra help.
“From there it went uphill,” chuckled Vonnie, who worked at the Pierce County Tribune for a number of years. “Someone called and said ‘do you want to do more?'”
When Great Plains Food Bank, Fargo, came into the picture to help, the Pierce County Food Pantry began its official existence. The Food Pantry serves all of Pierce County.
When the Degensteins first started with delivering government commodities, they had full time jobs and were raising a son and a daughter. Patricia and Timothy are grown now with
families of their own. The Degensteins are both retired. They have five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
They were both active in other organizations before they retired. Now they work the food pantry and deliver meals on wheels together. Vonnie is the treasurer of the hospital auxiliary and belongs to Community Action of Minot.
It used to be that transients in need of food, gas, or housing were helped by the area’s churches and it still happens that way today. However, those families who need a little extra help to get through the month apply with either the social services office or at the food pantry. If they meet the income guidelines and their application is accepted, they can pick up food at the Armory in Rugby on the third Monday of the month from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.
Currently, there are 51 families eligible in Rugby. The food is received from government commodities, local food drives, Great Plains Food Bank, and Leveers Super Valu. Churches and schools sponsor food drives, and provide volunteers to unload when truckloads of food come in to the food pantry.
Since the Food Pantry is located in the basement of the Armory, students from nearby Rugby High School can be excused from study hall to help unload trucks and they do it voluntarily.
Funds are needed by the food pantry to purchase perishable foods and other items. Donations can be taken to Merchants Bank or sent to: Food Pantry, 203 SW 4th St., Rugby, ND 58368.
It will soon be time to assemble holiday food baskets for Christmas. Turkey and all the fixings are provided by the food pantry. They include candy, nuts, apples and oranges, and pumpkin pies. The food pantry typically needs to receive about $4,500 in monetary donations to supply the 125 Holiday baskets that get distributed, this year on Saturday, December 18.
Volunteers will be needed to fill the baskets. Every year the volunteers get together and assemble the food baskets . They have chili and apple cider to sustain them while working and they enjoy the camaraderie as they work. Holiday Baskets are delivered to the various families on the 18th after they are filled.
Confidentiality is of utmost importance to respect the privacy of the families involved.
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