Last Monday, Homer Community Food Pantry distributed over 250 Thanksgiving boxes and they're just getting started on their yearly collaboration with Share the Spirit to make and distribute Christmas boxes.
Because of job loss and slow downs due to COVID, need has escalated alongside the rising number of cases on the Peninsula. In order to operate safely, Dennis Weidler from the Homer Food Pantry says they've had to scale down from 30 volunteers to 10 volunteers, and they're exclusively a drive-through operation.
“So, that's the downside of the virus is that we can't let people in to shop. But, I will tell you that the boxes that we're preparing include everything, practically, that we have in our pantry. It's a lot of food, and larger families get two boxes. We still have about 300 turkeys left in the freezer to help out with Share the Spirit,” said Weidler.
Students going to school remotely, means no annual canned food drive through the school district. Shoppers at Save U More can help make up that deficit by donating food by the can or by the case to the Food Pantry's Canasaurus just inside the grocery store's front door.
Share the Spirit has been making and distributing Christmas Boxes for 28 years, now.
Their annual Spaghetti Feed can't take place this year but Share the Spirit recieved CARES Act grants from the cities of Homer and Kachemak City to help fund their efforts this year.
Applications are open now. Sherry Daugherty will be at the Food Pantry with volunteers this Monday and next Monday to sign people up to get food and gift boxes. The preparation and distribution will happen at the Christian Community Church on Bartlett Street, the week before Christmas.
“For people who need to sign up to get a Christmas box, whether it's just food or if you have small children, you want food and gifts. You don't get out of your car. We're wearing masks, we appreciate it when you wear a mask. We come right to your window. We had a crew of 5 out there on Monday and we took 90 applications,” Daugherty said.
Share the Spirit also has gift trees at retail businesses. You can take a tag off the tree, and buy a gift, anonymously, for a kid in the community. The business sends the present on to Share the Spirit with a tag from Santa. The trees are up now at Homer Bookstore, Homer's Jeans, The Captain's Chest toy store, Ulmer's and Kachemak Gear Shed.
South Peninsula Haven House has a toy drive underway as well. Anyone can participate by bringing a new unwrapped toy to the drop-off at Haven House just off Lake Street in downtown Homer.
The Homer Food Pantry also provides other types of aid during their regular, Monday,
noon to 3:00 p.m. hours, or by phone during the rest of the week. Here's Dennis Weidler.
“If people call with an HEA bill, if I can get the invoice number, their address and their name and the amount, I can help them with their HEA right over the phone. Homeless assistance referrals, I can do those over the phone. We're still doing an enormous number of gas vouchers and shower vouchers on Mondays, and we just laid in a supply of taxi vouchers, which is new for us,” said Weidler.
There is CARES Act relief available for Kachemak Bay Campus students. Reid Brewer is KBC's Director. He says grants of $500 are available for students in who qualify in Soldotna and in Homer.
"..so the students have to be residents of those cities. They have to be admitted to University of Alaska or pending admission. They have to be enrolled in six courses or more at Kenai Peninsula College and be a student in good standing,” said Brewer.
And, the City of Homer is accepting applications for another week, for rent and mortgage relief grants through their CARES Act program and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. Rachel Tussey explains.
“It offers up to six months of rent and mortgage payment relief to eligible households in the City of Homer. So that's up to 1,200 a month for July through December of 2020. The deadline for that program has been extended to Thursday, December 10,” Tussey said.
There are eligibility requirements, like making less than $71,000 a year. Only one person per-household can apply. To find out if you're eligible, go to the City of Homer's webpage.
The Homer Food Pantry is open from Noon to 3 p.m. on Mondays. It's located at the Homer United Methodist Church on East Road at the entrance to Homer High School.
There is a Food Pantry Emergency number for odd hours and off days – 235-1968.
Their website is homerfoodpantry.org
For information about how to apply for a Christmas box from Share the Spirit, call 235-7466.
If you'd like to donate to Share the Spirit, you can do that at Wells Fargo Bank on Heath Street.
You can hear the entire, hour-long discussion on holiday aid and relief by clicking on the Coffee Table episode, below.