Cumberland Times-News

July 21, 2013

Western Maryland Food Bank marks 30th anniversary

Open house will be held Friday at organization’s headquarters/warehouse on Frederick Street

Angie Brant
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — The Western Maryland Food Bank will mark an important milestone Friday, as the organization celebrates its 30th anniversary with an open house.

Incorporated in 1983, the food bank has provided millions of pounds of food to area families and individuals in need.

The primary goal, then and now, is simple — provide food for families in need. In the first two months of operation, the Western Maryland Food Bank provided 41,000 pounds of food. That number has grown to several millions of pounds in the three de-cades following.

Executive Director Diana Loar has served the food bank for more than 27 years and said she considers her work to be a mission she is honored to serve. Loar and her staff of four employees rely heavily on the generosity and skills of volunteers who log thousands of hours each week.

Loar said these special individuals are the key to the continued success of the food bank. The volunteers pick up, inspect and sort food, complete office work and assist the staff with the daily operations of the food bank.

“We have so many wonderful volunteers and we simply could not operate and serve the needs of our community without our volunteers,” Loar said. Volunteers log hundreds of hours each week and more than 9,000 hours each year.

Amy Moyer serves as Loar’s assistant and said the dedication of the volunteers is unmatched and she is always impressed by their unwavering desire to help others.

“We have volunteers that treat their volunteer work as if it is a full-time job,” she said. “We pick up at 11 different stores each week; some locations are daily pickups and we have people who faithfully pick up and then help us out in the warehouse.”

Loar and Moyer said these individuals make it possible for the food bank to serve a growing population of individuals and families who do not have enough to eat.

A member of the Feeding America National Food Bank Network and Maryland State Food Bank, the Western Maryland Food Bank distributes food to more than 100 member agencies, including interfaith food pantries, day care and after-school programs and feeding stations.

Cathy Carpenter, a food bank board member, said that until she joined the board she had no idea of the number of people facing hunger.

“I am stunned by the level of need in our region, and I hope the open house will serve as a way for the public to realize the growing need and the level of work that goes into the operations of the Western Maryland Food Bank,” she said. “And, hopefully, continue to help us keep going in our mission to provide for the community.”

Loar said the food bank has seen an increase in the number of families in need over the past several years. More than 10,000 individuals are served each month. One area of need hat is particularily troubling to Loar and her staff is the number of children who go hungry when they are not in school.

As a result, the food bank instituted a Backpack Program where children are provided with a backpack of nonperishable foods for weekends and vacations. The program now offers aid to more than 240 children in 11 schools.

“The need is so great and we are struggling to meet the needs of our community,” Carpenter said.

The food bank, a member of the United Way of Allegany County, depends on volunteer support as well as monetary donations.

“Every contribution is im-portant to our work, whether it be through volunteering, cash donations or support of area food drives,” Loar added.

She encourages supporters and those unfamiliar with the work of the food bank to attend the open house for an opportunity to “learn more about the Western Maryland Food Bank and what we do in this community.”

The open house will be held from 3 to 7 p.m and will include music, refreshments and tours of the facility. Western Maryland Food Bank is located at 816 Frederick St.

If you or someone you know is in need, dial 211 for confidental information on help with all social services, including food, health care, housing and crisis resources.

For more information, visit www.wmdfoodbank.org.

Contact Angie Brant at abrant@times-news.com.