The Spring Valley Area Food Shelf has filled a need as 185 families use the service, overseen by the Spring Valley Ministerial Association. Abigail Biermann helps the Rev. Dennis Timmerman get food donations arranged in the house, which has served the role well, but is having maintenance issues that require a move.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
The Spring Valley Area Food Shelf has filled a need as 185 families use the service, overseen by the Spring Valley Ministerial Association. Abigail Biermann helps the Rev. Dennis Timmerman get food donations arranged in the house, which has served the role well, but is having maintenance issues that require a move. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kathy Baarsch, Rita Hartert and Carol Gross are seeking a new building to house the Spring Valley Food Shelf.

"We're looking for a place, and if someone has a suitable building in a good location and would like to donate it to the city of Spring Valley, we're looking for a new home," stated volunteer Baarsch, who, along with Gross and Hartert, serves at the food pantry located in an old farmhouse on the west side of Spring Valley, out on West Tracy Road.

The Spring Valley Area Food Shelf opened in the former Kasten farmhouse on Dec. 17, 2008, and is overseen by the Spring Valley Area Ministerial Association. The volunteers have enjoyed gathering, inventorying and sharing food from its main floor.

"The space is wonderful, said Gross. "There's room for food storage, room for shelves."

Hartert concurred, "There's plenty of room for the refrigerators and freezers, the location is private for clients, close to town and handy for them and us."

However, Baarsch pointed out, the roof needs new shingles, the front porch is falling in, and the furnace and water heater have recently been immersed in three feet of water after this spring's persistent rainfall. "We have to get the water pumped out, and we're mainly concerned with the water heater and furnace, the front porch ceiling falling in, and the siding is also in really bad shape. We knew the property was not going to be something we'd be in long term anyway, but it's zoned residential, and we thought we could stay here at least a little while. If we were going to and had the money, the furnace and water heater would probably be repaired or replaced, but it's a matter of time. We have to think and look forward to the future."

That future has real people depending on it. When the Spring Valley Area Food Shelf opened, it served 18 families, but today, 185 families - including 85 that have children under 18 years of age - rely on supplemental food from its pantry, and approximately 100 families a month visit the food shelf.

"We have 30 to 35 who are 65 and older, so we're serving a large age range," Gross stated.

Hartert noted that this summer, the volunteers managing the food shelf are giving out an extra bag of food to families with children to help them deal with the loss of free breakfasts and lunches that the children would receive during the school year. Those very same children might have toured the food shelf with their classmates at some point during the school year, learning about the volunteerism and generosity that make the monthly food distribution happen.

Gross said, "The food shelf presents an opportunity for kids to get ideas about volunteering through the shelf, because we don't have a single paid person. We're all volunteers." The Kasten house has enough land surrounding it that the FFA has maintained a garden there, and various organizations, including 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, churches and the local post office gather food donations each month and bring them to the shelf.

Hartert stated, "We have some monetary donations from individuals and groups each month, public and private, too, but those are for food. We do pay our utilities. Otherwise, we don't have much money."

The ladies are hoping that they soon can receive food shelf donations in a new, drier location with a reliable roof, furnace and water heater. Hartert is thankful that "the three feet of water happened now, in the spring and summer, rather than in the middle of winter," but still would like to assist the area's hungry in a building that doesn't present maintenance challenges.

Baarsch observed, "It's possible to donate a building as a charitable donation as long as certain guidelines are followed."

The trio thanked area citizens for their willingness to help neighbors enjoy a good meal, concluding, that the people of Spring Valley are extremely generous.

For more information on the Spring Valley Area Food Shelf and its needs, email svfoodshelf@yahoo.com, or call Spring Valley's city hall at (507) 346-7367.