A giving community: Family Fare, Matthew 25:35 hold annual Fat Tuesday food drive

For the fifth straight year, Family Fare and Matthew 25:35 Food Pantry collaborated to celebrate Fat Tuesday with their annual “Pack the Paczki” food drive, which benefits the local pantry. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

For the fifth straight year, Family Fare and Matthew 25:35 Food Pantry collaborated to celebrate Fat Tuesday with their annual “Pack the Paczki” food drive, which benefits the local pantry. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — A.J. Swander spoke the truth when he called this place a “paczki town.”

The Family Fare store director also knows Manistee County is a giving community and jumps at the chance to join in on the generosity.

For the fifth straight year, Family Fare and Matthew 25:35 Food Pantry collaborated to celebrate Fat Tuesday with their annual “Pack the Paczki” food drive, which benefits the local pantry.

“We’re in a great location for people to come out and conveniently donate,” Swander said. “We love to partner up with Matthew 25:35, because they do such great work in the community.”

Throughout the day, Family Fare rewarded patrons who donated non-perishable food items with a paczki or paczkis upon check out. For every three donations purchased in the store, the donor received one paczki. For every 12 donated items, the donor received a six-pack of the traditional treat.

Beth Peplinski, left, and Pat Rebedew represented the Matthew 25:35 Food Pantry at Family Fare on Tuesday during the annual "Pack the Paczki" food drive. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Beth Peplinski, left, and Pat Rebedew represented the Matthew 25:35 Food Pantry at Family Fare on Tuesday during the annual “Pack the Paczki” food drive. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Several representatives who help make up the food pantry’s vast volunteer base were greeting guests and thanking donors.

“Family Fare has been very good to us,” said Pat Rebedew, a dedicated volunteer for Matthew 25:35. “They let us do this every year and help us stock our shelves throughout the year.”

The Matthew 25:35 Food Pantry is a program coordinated by the Divine Mercy Parish and housed at the St. Joseph Parish Center at 249 Sixth St. in Manistee. The pantry is open to qualified shoppers the second Friday of each month.

Opened on Feb. 9, 2013, the pantry has served a total of 8,570 shoppers, 23,575 household members and distributed 393,900 pounds (197 tons) of groceries, fresh produce, eggs and meat.

Community support, donations and volunteerism have kept the pantry thriving.

“Our volunteer base has been wonderful,” Rebedew said. “We haven’t lost anybody, in fact we’ve gained volunteers over the years. So many wonderful people have been involved.”

Family Fare has been one of several local donors over the years, helping keep the pantry shelves stocked for those in need.

“We’re fortunate to be able to volunteer with them on their food pantry days (throughout the year),” Swander said. “A lot of my associates are able to see firsthand how their work benefits the community. It’s really encouraging for us to continue to help them where we can.

“Giving people an opportunity to donate here today we hope makes it easier for everyone to help.”

Tuesday’s donations weren’t totaled by press time, but Family Fare was committed to matching the results with non-perishables from its shelves.

“We get a lot of backing from SpartanNash to help out where we can,” Swander said, “and this event in particular has really resonated with people, so we continue to do it.

“People in this neighborhood really love their paczkis. It’s a paczki town.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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