With unemployment in Carbon County hovering at 11.6 percent the third highest in the state as of February, Betty Pearson's job is cut out for her.

Pearson represents the Lansford Shepherd House Food Pantry, lodged in Trinity Lutheran Church on East Abbott Street.

The food pantry, open from 9:30-11 a.m. on the third Monday of each month, serves up to 116 needy families and 31 senior citizens each month. The pantry receives $1,083 from the state, money that is expected to stretch for six months, Pearson said.

With so many hungry people, the pantry depends heavily on the generosity of others for donations of food and money to buy food.

"We desperately need help," Pearson said.

On Friday, Lansford Alive!, the borough's community improvement organization, chipped in to donate $100.

"We're stepping up to help the community," said Martin Ditsky, the group's treasurer.

He presented the check to Pearson as she sat in the tiny space that houses the pantry's food stores. Next to her stood her niece, Jennifer Kusse of Lehighton.

Kusse is the daughter of the late Claudia Sokol, a dedicated volunteer fire police member who collapsed and died Feb. 22 while on the job in Summit Hill.

Sokol, 55, was an indefatigable volunteer: she worked at fire, accident and other emergency scenes as a fire police member; helped at the food pantry; helped at the No. 9 Mine & Museum; coached Panther Valley Knee-Hi cheerleading, and was a member of the chain crew for home football games; helped with the Breaker Boys football team, coached by her husband, David; volunteered at Summit Hill's annual Stay-At-Home festival; worked as a school bus monitor, and helped Pearson navigate the physical demands of daily life.

When Kusse stepped in to take over her mother's work at the food pantry, she saw how great the need was for donations.

"I'm finding that we are in need of the community's help in order to save the food pantry," she said. "I will be setting up a community yard sale, bake sales, basket raffles, car washes, and dinners. Any other ideas are welcome."

Kusse is establishing the Claudia Sokol Fund to help people in the community who have suffered losses, such as house fires.

"This fund will be here for the community when in need, because my Mom spent a lot of her time volunteering and helping others. In memory of my Mom, with (the community's) help, we can make this possible and very successful," she said.

For more information, or to donate, call Kusse at (570) 249-0312 or (610) 379-4647.