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Tim Back and Bob Lily earned the nickname of 'The Potato Men'

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Left, the Rev. Keyone Kale Yu, pastor of St. Peters United Methodist Church in Saylorsburg is proud of two of its members, Tim Back, center, and Bob Lily, right, who started a potato ministry. To date, the church has raised…
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Left, the Rev. Keyone Kale Yu, pastor of St. Peters United Methodist Church in Saylorsburg is proud of two of its members, Tim Back, center, and Bob Lily, right, who started a potato ministry. To date, the church has raised enough money to buy 2,325 lbs. of potatoes to be donated to Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network since May 2009. Before that time, Tim and Bob were purchasing several hundred pounds of potatoes by themselves since Feb. 2009.
Published January 27. 2010 05:00PM

One never knows the seeds they sow and how an idea can grow.

Audrey Gould, a member of St. Peters United Methodist Church in Saylorsburg, is the church's representative to Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network, (PVEN) a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation located in McMichaels in the Western Pocono area of Monroe County. It is made up of a network of area churches working together to meet the needs of their community.

One Sunday in early 2009, Audrey spoke to her congregation of the needs of PVEN in providing for low income families or families in crisis. One of the things she said was that the families rarely receive fresh produce.

That statement struck a cord in two men sitting in the congregation.

Timothy Back and Bob Lily, neighbors and friends in Saylorsburg and members of St. Peters, frequently visit Padulas potato farm in Bath and each buys a 50 lb. bag of potatoes every couple months.

After hearing Audrey speak of the need of PVEN's families they serve, they talked about it and decided that every time they would buy potatoes for themselves, they would buy a 50 lb. bag for PVEN. That was in February 2009.

"Everybody's having some rough times right now. I was looking for something that was more of a hands-on way to help people. This is a way to do that," says Tim.

He liked the idea of giving potatoes because "A lot of us were raised on potatoes. It's a cheap way to feed a lot," says Tim.

Tim and Bob pay $7.50 for a 50 lb. bag.

Soon they were buying between 200-300 lbs. every month.

When they delivered the potatoes, they heard the appreciation for the spuds from the clients of PVEN, but understood that not all the families received some.

After talking about it, they decided to approach the rest of the church members to see if they would be interested in helping them in their potato ministry.

On the last Sunday of May, 2009, "We asked them if they would be willing to give $1 a month to help buy potatoes," says Tim.

They were thrilled with the response and found themselves purchasing between 400-550 lbs. of potatoes a month ever since.

"So far, the congregation collected enough money to purchase 2,325 lbs. since May. That's no small potatoes," says the pastor of St. Peters, the Rev. Keyone Kale Yu.

"We're trying to keep it going," says Tim. The last Sunday of each month is now designated to collect donations for the potatoes from the congregation, sometimes earning as much as $150. Then Tim and Bob purchase the potatoes from Padulas Potato Farm and delivers them.

"When we show up at PVEN with a truck full of potatoes, the families smile at us and we hear, 'Here comes the Potato Man.' It makes you feel good knowing you're helping people," says Bob.

Pastor Yu says that Tim and Bob helped the whole congregation to realize the impact they are making.

"It just goes to show what two people can accomplish," he says.

Tim, Bob, Pastor Yu and the congregation of St. Peters wants everyone to know that hard times and hunger is still with us in our communities and hope to plant more seeds in getting others to think of ways to help, through volunteering and donations of food and clothing.

PVEN is open to pick up food and clothing, no appointment needed, Tuesdays 9:30 to 11:30 am.

The Center accepts donations of food and clothing on Tuesdays and Fridays, 9 to 11:30 am, with other times available by appointment. Contact Information is 570-992-3136.

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