Colona Food Pantry marks 31 years of friendship, commitment to helping others

Posted Online: April 22, 2013, 12:00 am
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Lisa Hammer, rlhammer@qconline.com
COLONA -- A decades-old friendship and a focus on helping others has kept the Colona Food Pantry going strong for 31 years.

Hazel Sletten, Helen Russell and Art Ash have been with the pantry for 31 years and Audrey Allen for 29 years, according to Mrs. Sletten.

She said her involvement started from helping out when parents didn't pick up their children from Colona School on time.

"The school knew that I would always take the kids if their parents didn't come after them," she said. "One morning a man came and knocked on my door and had two little fellers. He wanted to know if I'd feed them.

"He said he didn't want to be fed, but I said 'yes,' and that started it. I decided if those people were hungry, there's lots more out there."

She said it took paperwork and phone calls to get it going. Today, the pantry not only has canned goods but also produce, two large chest freezers and six or seven upright freezers to store food.

The pantry started in the basement of the old Green Rock City Hall and police station, with the late Louella Schultz as the first director.

Within a few years, Colona Township, the village of Colona and the city of Green Rock went together and built a pantry addition onto the police station. The township donated $15,000, and each city gave $5,000.

The women said the big sponsors of the pantry are Colona churches. They also spoke of the generosity of people in the community in general. A man from Moline gives them $80 per month, and St. John's Evangelical Free Church in Edford Township donates regularly.

Last year, Mrs. Sletten said she opened an envelope with six $100 bills in it, and there was no return address.

"Some people asked for donations for the food pantry instead of gifts for an anniversary or birthday," Audrey Allen said. "Everything that comes in goes out in food. Nobody gets paid."

"We've never gotten a dime," Mrs. Sletten said. "The trucker, maybe we give him $20 out of our own pocket for gas money once in awhile."

Other organizations, including the school, do fundraisers for the food pantry, but the food pantry personnel don't do fundraisers themselves. The school has given proceeds from chili cook-offs, and the village of Cleveland has donated from motorcycle poker run proceeds.

"It's a good community," Mrs. Allen said.

The women say they can tell times have become harder the last few years. In 2008, they served 40 families, but now they are up to at least 200 per month.

The pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first four Wednesdays of the month. The city recently gave them space in the former Church of God at the corner of 8th Street and 7th Avenue.

Families can come once per month, unless they're hungry before the next visit."If we find out they're hungry, we're going to knock on their door," Mrs. Sletten said. "I think that's the only pantry that delivers."

They follow federal guidelines for giving out food, but don't have to be as strict with local donations.

They said two weeks ago a little boy told them he was eating two pot pies for dinner and his mother wasn't eating, and there were four people in the family.

"It's just so sad," Mrs. Sletten said. "No matter who I talk to, they tell me it's not getting much better."

Art Ash said typical rent is about $800 per month, and he said he doesn't see how a family trying to live on minimum wage can make it.

He said the food pantry has good volunteers."Everybody gets along. You can ask for help if you've got a packing order, and they're right there."

"Volunteers here would give their left arm, honest to Pete they would," Mrs. Sletten said.
Why stay with it for so many years?

Volunteer Bill Clark said the women take their responsibility seriously."The standard line is they'd let other people do it, but they can't do it right," he said with a grin.

Mrs. Sletten said it would be hard to turn the reins over to someone who might not be able to open the pantry regularly, such as a young woman with a baby or someone going to school.

"They can't help it that baby's sick, or they've got to go to school. It's better to be like this. We only cross that bridge when we come to it," she said.

"I said I haven't got any talent, and God gave me this talent to help people," she said with a smile.

The group recently was honored by Colona Mayor Danny McDaniel and the city council with city medallions and a standing ovation.


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)