Members of Cub Scout Pack 173 collected more than 2,500 items to donate to the Harrisburg Food Pantry.
By Jonathan E. Coleman
Thirty minutes before members of Harrisburg’s Cub Scout Pack 173 were set to begin their weekly meeting, Cubmaster Tommy Warlick knew it was going to be a busy night.
Earlier in the month, Warlick had issued a challenge to his nearly 115 scouts to collect canned food from family, friends and neighbors to donate to the Harrisburg Food Pantry and families in need.
“We did this on a smaller scale last year,” Warlick said. “One den collected 350 cans.”
Thursday night, Warlick stood outside the fellowship hall at Harrisburg Presbyterian Church, which has sponsored the pack for nearly 50 years and serves as the group’s meeting site, and waited for scouts to arrive with their donations. It didn’t take long for the canned goods to start piling high.
“I was extremely overwhelmed,” said Warlick, who admitted he hoped early on that each scout would bring in 10 cans. “I knew we were in for a long night when two other boys and my son brought in almost 150 cans.”
And the donations continued to pour in. Scouts counted their contributions and kept a running tally as the meeting progressed.
“This is getting beautiful,” said 8-year-old Bradley Foulks as he wove his way between bags of donated food items. “This is getting so good I can’t believe it.
This is good for the poor, and they’re getting it on Christmas Eve. This is really good — maybe a thousand cans.”
In the end, in fact, the pack collected more than 2,500 donations.
Once parents and volunteers helped sort the goods, items were loaded into cars and delivered to Harrisburg United Methodist Church, where the Harrisburg Food Pantry is housed.
Shortly thereafter, pantry organizer Pat Miller got a call.
“It was one of the men from church,” she said. “He said, ‘Pat, get ready. You’ve got a big food drive.’”
Miller spent much of the morning Monday working with volunteers from the church’s LunchPlus club, sorting and dating the donations.
“I never dreamed it was going to be this big,” she said. “I’m very thankful.”
The pantry opens its doors for three hours each Monday and allows those in need to collect food items.
“We allow them to come in one Monday a month and we allow them four bags,” she said.
Miller said on an average week, the pantry would see six to eight people. But in recent weeks, as the economy has slowed, more and more families are seeking assistance. This week, Miller said, 12 people visited the pantry.
Because of those increasing numbers, increasing support from groups like Pack 173 are important and necessary.
“I think it’s good for the children to realize that everything’s not always as good as at home,” she said.
For more information on making donations to or receiving donations from the Harrisburg Food Pantry, call 704-455-2311.
• Contact reporter Jonathan E. Coleman at 704-789-9105.