West End Fire Police helped move traffic safely as 271 families came to the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network's Community Service Center in McIlhaney in Chestnuthill Township to pick up their respective Thanksgiving dinner packages from the PVEN last week.

That scene, in various dimensions, was seen at all food pantries across the region as they reached out to those in need in their respective service area. Clientele numbers have been growing for some time.

Such demand took many food items from the shelves of those food pantries and the winter season is coming on strong, with the Christmas holiday bringing yet more families to the sources of help, with shelves needing to be refilled.

Helping the tax-dollar supported food pantries in the four-county Lions District 14U (Schuylkill, Carbon, Pike and Monroe) is Past District Governor Bob Neumoyer's Governor's Project, "Lions, Helping Feed the Hungry."

His concern for the hungry netted some $3,600 over the past Lions' program year. Those funds were recently dispensed to the region co-chairs of the hunger project. The amounts were based on a ratio and proportion of family units to dollars, with Region 1, consisting of Pike and Monroe counties, receiving $1,861 for the 11 tax-dollar supported pantries, of which the Bushkill Outreach serves parts of both Monroe and Pike counties.

That amount is based on its total numbers of families served in both counties.

Taking time during the PVEN basket distribution to bring some financial help was Lion Charles Rush, region co-chair for the Lions' hunger project. The check he presented to PVENCSC director Eloise Laubach was for $310 as the PVEN food ministry currently leads in the demand placed on it as to family units in Monroe County.

Also receiving funding through the Lions project will be Christian Awareness Ministry in Canadensis, the Pocono Mountain Ecumenical Hunger Ministry, the Salvation Army and Top of the Mountain Ecumenical.

In Pike County, in addition to Bushkill Outreach, four other hunger ministry sites will be supported by Lions' funds.

Lion Rush, who not only volunteers at the PVEN with the food distribution, but also serves as secretary to the ecumenical group's board, says, "The numbers of individuals needing assistance just continues to grow. Just this month alone we added 35 new family units. Our next big project, besides providing food for the Christmas season, will be the toy distribution on Sunday, Dec. 12, and then we shall have to begin restocking our empty shelves."

"During the past year we have seen incredible growth," says Eloise Laubach, PVEN CSC director. "This was especially so for Thanksgiving. I estimated we would serve 375 families for Thanksgiving, but we prepared 400 'just in case' the number was larger. We, as of today, have handed out close to 450 food baskets and there is still one more distribution in November.

"My concern is we could be close to 500 for Christmas. In addition to needing the typical canned goods, my greatest concern is for the cost of turkeys and hams. I need to purchase these and the price of turkey has increased over 20 percent from last year. Donations of these items, monetary donations, or gift cards for these items would be greatly appreciated," adds Laubach, as she considers the numbers for the next major distribution.

Any help in meeting the needs for any area's hunger ministry is greatly appreciated.

More Lions' help will be on the way to these food pantries as current District Governor Bob Kelsey continues to make the project one of his priorities and Lions Clubs throughout the District continue to collect both foods and monies via the District's "Purple Pig" project, which also benefitted the food pantries during the past year.