Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

November 16, 2012

Local food pantry a resource for living

By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — A relatively new food pantry and resource center in Wayne County is looking to build on its missions to help with food, physical and psychological needs for residents in need in southeast Iowa.

Resources For Living, 116 N. Fourth St., Seymour, in Wayne County, offers clients a food pantry, two computers to use for free Internet access for job searches, government assistance, resume writing, parenting classes, weekly NEST meetings, support and education, emotional support, thrift store, child abuse prevention, family activities, home visits and resources for everyday living.

"And all of our services are for free," said Tanecia Walker, who with Debra Eccleston, both full-time, non-paid volunteers at the center, run the day-to-day operations. "We have people coming in everyday."

Walker said most of their more than 400 clients, or 170 families who access their services, come for the food pantry. After that household items like blankets, dishes, sheets, beds, microwaves and air conditioners, if they have them, are sought after.

Walker said they have clients from all over southeast Iowa and northern Missouri but most come from Centerville. She said they try to make client's visits comfortable so they don't feel like they are dealing with a government agency.

RFL primarily goes to the Southern Iowa Food Bank in Ottumwa to stock the food pantry, Walker said. There is a charge for the food and delivery.

They do accept food donations from the public but do not want food that has been expired for more than 30 days. And Hy-Vee has offered them discounts on food.

Walker said there are no income guidelines but family size is a consideration when giving out food. Clients are allowed to get food from the pantry once a month.

Walker said for most clients that once a month is typically towards the end of the month.

"And before their food stamps kick in at the beginning of the next month," Walker said. "That's the hard times."

On Friday, Nov. 9 RFL food pantry had canned vegetables, pasta, breakfast cereal, canned soup, rice, macaroni and cheese, BBQ sauce, hot cocoa, snack bars, cookies and prepackaged meals.

The center does have one deep freezer and two refrigerators in case they come across food items that need to be kept cold.

Walker said the Seymour School District every year holds a food drive between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year they collected 800 pounds of food for RFL.

Walker said the non-profit RFL was started by her mother, Ruth Castor, in May 2009. Castor is the president of the board of directors and owns the building.

"We're a non-profit," Walker said. "If you come in and you need help we're here to help you."

In October and April RFL holds what they call "Share What You Wear." The clothing, household items, sheets, curtains, beds, toys and whatever drive is held at the Legion in Seymour.

"And people come and drop off things," Walker said. "We go through it to make sure it works, it's not stained, torn of the clothes and a lot of people come and they just take what they need."

RFL also offers clients emotional support.

"We have some clients that come in several times a week just to vent, to talk, to cry, to do whatever they need to get through things," Walker said. "And then we'll help them with food or whatever their physical needs are."

RFL is self-sustaining, Walker said. But they do have two major donors who help keep RFL and The Store Next Door open and operating. Walker wouldn't reveal the name of the donors but said one lives in the area and the other used to but has since moved.

The Store Next Door is literally what the name implies. The store is next door to RFL and is where they sell various items to supplement the center.

"We do offer good things at a low price and the money goes back into the center and it's all for a good cause," Walker said.

They stock the store with housewares, dishes, lamps, clocks, party supplies, pots, pans, tools, Christmas items, blankets and odds and ends received through donations and through other outlets.

"We also look at auctions," Walker said, as a way to stock The Store Next Door. "We go to garage sales a lot of times to try and find things. We never have the same things."

One thing they can't do is help with rent or utilities due to their limited resources.

RFL is dedicated to the memory of Teresa Staggs, who passed away earlier this year and who was instrumental in getting the center off the ground.

RFL is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday by appointment and closed on Sunday. Call RFL at (641) 898-2212.

The second floor above the RFL building according to Walker in the future will be converted into an emergency homeless shelter.