By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
November is the prime month for food drives on behalf of Cooke County’s Volunteers In Service To Others (VISTO), and organization officials said they hope for the best.
Executive Director Michelle Baldwin said no fewer than four VISTO-related drives launch this month — and Gainesville Fire Department’s drive began on Oct. 26. She said November is traditionally VISTO’s most profitable phase, and that the tremendous influx of food allows the organization to help thousands of local residents in need of a boost.
That the tradition repeats this year, she added, is her leading prayer.
“Right now, Mother Hubbard’s cupboard is bare,” she said. “But that’s normal. It always gets this way. It always gets slim and so we have to spend a lot of money to buy food.”
Baldwin said VISTO received roughly 15,000 pounds in donated food during November 2011, and some 20,000 pounds during November 2010.
She said VISTO organizers are relying on something similar this year, since during the summer, the organization’s food bank stores thinned faster than usual.
“There was not enough emergency food to give everyone what we have had in the past,” Baldwin said. “The clients are still grateful. But we have almost no meat, which is unusual. By now, we’d have gotten some pork in, some beef in, some deer meat in. We’d have usually gotten some variety of meat. But other than some turkeys from the Salvation Army, we have not had any meat, so we’ve had to buy it, which is expensive and we can only give out so much.”
And for the first time in the organization’s 11-year local service, VISTO organizers have had to tighten their benefit guidelines. Since mid-summer, food availability is based exclusively on income level and need.
“If there are no elderly people or children in the family, and the adults cannot show a true emergency or true crisis, then we’re not able to help them,” she said. “If they could show a need or a crisis, then we would go ahead and serve them. But if they just walk in and say, ‘Ah, gee, I don’t really have anything to eat today and I don’t have a reason for that; I just don’t,’ then we might not be able to help.”
For more information about VISTO, call (940) 668-6403 or visit www.vistohelps.com.