In light of current economic crises — coupled with soon-to-arrive, staggering energy bills that will follow on the heels of “old-man winter” — many charitable organizations anticipate more families will step forward to join the burgeoning ranks of people who gratefully accept the help offered by local food pantries.

Demographic statistics provided by the State of Missouri reveal 31 percent of Missourians are “working families that are low income.”


In light of current economic crises — coupled with soon-to-arrive, staggering energy bills that will follow on the heels of “old-man winter” — many charitable organizations anticipate more families will step forward to join the burgeoning ranks of people who gratefully accept the help offered by local food pantries.
Demographic statistics provided by the State of Missouri reveal 31 percent of Missourians are “working families that are low income.”
Moreover, 11.30 percent of Phelps County families and 16.40 percent of the total population of Phelps County are considered to be “below the poverty line.”
In kicking off its 18th year in collecting donations of non-perishable food for 21 local food pantries, Denny Ford Lincoln Mercury has, again, raised the goal for how much food it will collect through Dec. 20.
Denny LaBantschnig, owner of Denny Ford, said this year’s goal is 42 trucks, filled to the brim with canned goods, boxed items, cereals, diapers, baby formula, household cleaning and personal hygiene products.
“We need to help these people through a tough period in their lives,” LaBantschnig explained. “You’d be surprised at the people who use food pantries — your friends, neighbors, members of your church’s congregation.
“Thirty-eight percent of people in Missouri have received food from food pantries,” LaBantschnig said. “Children and the elderly are most affected by any economic downturn.
“The food pantries are important, because without the ‘staples,” people can’t accomplish the ‘basics’ of life,” LaBantschnig explained.
The food collected by “Fill Fords” will be sorted according to the needs of the individual food pantries and then delivery will begin three-to-four days before the drive ends.
LaBantschnig said the program began 18 years ago when several people asked for his help in replenishing four, empty food pantries.
The first year, the “Fill a Ford” food-drive saw two-and-one-half trucks filled for four pantries.
“We thought we had done a pretty good job.”
In the second year, and after several requests from other food pantries, LaBantschnig discovered the need had increased.
“The second year, we had eight trucks. It’s gone up steadily since then.
“In my lifetime, I’ve never experienced anything like this. I don’t think it (economic conditions) has affected us as much as in other areas of the country, but I feel like we’ve actually hit the bottom,” LaBantschnig explained. “However, from here on, I think we’re going to see an upturn. There’s a more positive attitude out there.
“I love doing this.
“The first year, I, personally, delivered the food to each pantry. You see the joy in people’s faces when you pull up with the food, and that joy gets injected directly into your veins,” LaBantschnig said as he explained why the program was so gratifying.
Despite having just kicked-off the “Fill Fords for the Holidays” project for 2008, the pickup truck in the Denny Ford showroom was brimming with food donations.
LaBantschnig finished placing donations into the truck, crushed some empty cartons and carried them out to the dumpster. When he returned, he stood by the side of stuffed truck-bed and grinned.
“Get your ‘can’ into Denny Ford Lincoln Mercury, and help those less fortunate,” LaBantschnig said with a smile.
To donate food to the “Fill Fords for the Holiday” project, drop by the Denny Ford Lincoln Mercury dealership at the intersection of U.S. Route 63 and 7th Street in Rolla. The pickup truck in the showroom is the repository.
For more information about “Fill Fords for the Holidays,” contact Denny or Terri at 364-1211.