WEST COVINA — It was right around Christmas that Father Ray Smith of St. Martha's Episcopal Church noticed a marked increase in the number of parishioners and others in the community who were in need of food.
Since then, Smith, along with representatives of 10 other West Covina churches, has been working toward the establishment of a clearinghouse that would give food to those in need.
That goal was realized Wednesday when the Community Food Bank of West Covina officially opened its doors in a room at Del Norte School, 1501 W. Del Norte Ave. While there was no gala, organizers were pleased to have the bank's shelves stocked with donated food.
"We are very optimistic," Smith said. "I believe this is a community working at its best--not just church groups. Because hunger is such an expansive problem, we had to combine forces."
$3,000 Worth of Food
The joint efforts of the 11 churches have brought nearly $3,000 worth of food into the bank, Smith said. He said that donations have included large amounts of canned goods, 400 loaves of bread and 300 bags of potatoes.
Smith said the organization expects to provide food to 40 to 50 families a day.
"You have a lot of silent and invisible hungry people," Smith said. "They're not on the street or down and out. They're legitimate citizens trying to function in the community."
Smith said those in need include long-time residents who are unemployed, senior citizens on fixed incomes and transients who are in search of jobs and food.
Besides St. Martha's, the churches in the project are Bethany Baptist, Community Presbyterian, Faith Chapel, First Baptist of West Covina, Immanuel First Lutheran, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran, St. Christopher Catholic, United Methodist of West Covina, the West Covina Church of Christ, and the West Covina Hills Seventh-day Adventist.
Smith said donations have included not only the food, but also shelving and even the room in which the food bank is housed. Volunteers staff the food bank, which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Smith said that most of the churches sponsoring the bank already had some type of food distribution project, but that organizers believed they could better serve the community by pooling ther resources.
Food Supply Varied
One of the major problems with churches individually disbursing food, Smith said, is that the amount of food available for the hungry varied from month to month, depending on donations. A primary aim of the food bank, Smith said, is to maintain a stable stock of food and dispense it according to each family's size.
The food bank, which joins an estimated 30 other food distribution agencies in the San Gabriel Valley, will need $1,000 a week to keep it running properly, Smith said. The organization, he said, plans to have churches sponsor monthly food drives, and eventually hopes to bring businesses into the food drives.