Vandergrift woman honored by food bank for helping veterans
The 11 th recipient of the Westmoreland County Food Bank’s Partner of the Year award is a military wife who has seen the needs of veterans first-hand.
“I see the families struggling. They don’t make the income they need to make, so it is a very hard struggle,” said Donna Carr, family assistance service specialist for the Pennsylvania National Guard Family Assistance Center.
Carr, 35, of Vandergrift received the award on Thursday at the Food Bank’s annual Partnership Luncheon and Awards program.
Also recognized were the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry of St. Agnes and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parishes, North Huntingdon, recipient of the Agency of the Year award, and the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, recipient of the Donor of the Year award.
Carr said she got involved in the food program about a year and a half ago, at a time when the Food Bank’s Military Share program was limited to Mt. Pleasant area veterans and their families.
In the meantime, the program’s reach has grown from 25 recipients to 192 recipients, she said. It now has a waiting list.
“This is not a welfare program. This is a way to help them get to the next step where they need to be,” she said. “It’s very much needed in this area.”
Carr said she was able to expand the program by collaborating with the American Legion and VFW posts in Lower Burrell and the armories in Greensburg and Mt. Pleasant.
Food distributions are done every other month and in November and December, usually on the third Monday, she said. The food is boxed up by the Food Bank and taken to the distribution sites.
In addition to handling enrollments, Carr enlists the participation of organizations that serve veterans and active service personnel. They set up tables at the distribution sites and provide resources to participating families.
“We’re here to protect the family. That’s where my passion is,” said Carr, who is married to Staff Sgt. Bernard Carr of the Army National Guard in Indiana.
Thursday’s luncheon also kicked off Hunger Action Month, which the Food Bank uses to generate more interest in its programs.
“It’s a way to put the spotlight on hunger,” said Jennifer Miller, director of development. “It’s never in the dim light for us, but we realize that for a lot of people, it is.”
Because it falls just before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Hunger Action Month is a way to raise awareness and funds for the Food Bank’s busiest time of the year, she said.
“Everything amps up this time of year,” Miller said. “It’s a good time to get involved, even more so around the holidays.”
The Mt. Pleasant Food Pantry is holding its third annual Turkey Fund Drive, which provides a gift card for the purchase of a Thanksgiving turkey to qualifying families.
Donations are due by Nov. 1 so that the gift cards can be given out during the Nov. 12 pantry distribution.
For more information, call Pat Zelmore at 724-547-5972 or Marie Ochaba at 412-601-0798.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.