It was dark and chilly outside as volunteers helped unwrap pallets of food at the Low Income Ministry of Dodge County.

Early Tuesday morning, volunteers unloaded an estimated 7,500 pounds of items such as pork and beans, vegetables, spaghetti sauce, Ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese — about a third of the food being purchased through the Holiday Food Drive 2017.

“We need to restock for the first half of 2018,” said Steve Prescott, LIM pantry warehouse coordinator.

This will be one of many loads throughout the year.

Prescott said LIM feeds about 250 households or about 700 people a month in Dodge County.

This year’s food drive netted about $38,000, said Chris Leaver, an LIM volunteer, who with his family, launched the drive in 1996.

A couple months ago, people throughout the county began finding a list of needed food items in their church bulletins.

Donors could choose from a host of foods such as 48 cans of tuna for $33.82 or 24 cans of chicken noodle soup for $10.44. A donor would make out a check for that amount to his or her church.

The church then compiled the donors’ checks and wrote one check with the total to LIM.

In 2016, the drive ended up netting slightly more than $40,000, which was used to purchase more than 15 tons of food, Leaver said.

Leaver’s Thrivent Financial office works with area churches to collect the funds to purchase the food in whole-case quantities at wholesale prices. The City Meat Market Grocery in Hooper then provides the food at the wholesale cost.

Kelly Klosure provided the forklift and driver to help bring the food-loaded pallets from a semi-trailer truck into the LIM warehouse on Tuesday.

Thrivent employees and family members helped unload the food.

Why did employees like Frank Theiler come out to help?

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“I’m part of Thrivent,” Theiler said. “It’s a good thing we’re doing for the community.”

“It’s part of what we do,” Josh Hilgenkamp said. “Anything we can do to help the community over the holidays.”

Items collected via the food drive will continue to help people throughout the year.

“This is probably the single largest food fundraising event of the year for the Low Income Ministry,” Leaver said. “Last year’s food drive helped LIM get through the whole year. It was pretty significant.”

Lyndsay Osborn, LIM executive director, extended thanks to “everyone for all of the donations and hard work that make this a success every year.”

And as he watched volunteers unload the food, Fred McCoy was clearly pleased.

“It’s absolutely wonderful,” the longtime volunteer said. “This is the greatest program we’ve had for years.”

Volunteers had the food unloaded in under an hour and as they left LIM, the skies had turned from dark to light — perhaps an unintentional reflection of a ministry that works to make life a little brighter for area residents, too.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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