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Van at Clothes Closet and Food Pantry running on a prayer

Nonprofit desperately needs funding to keep families fed

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 5/18/23

ORANGE PARK – Anita Aultman cringes every time the 12-year-old refrigerated van makes a run to pick up frozen food for the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry of Orange Park. It’s in bad shape, held …

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Van at Clothes Closet and Food Pantry running on a prayer

Nonprofit desperately needs funding to keep families fed


Posted

ORANGE PARK – Anita Aultman cringes every time the 12-year-old refrigerated van makes a run to pick up frozen food for the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry of Orange Park. It’s in bad shape, held together by a patchwork of repairs and faith.

“Our current truck has a serpentine belt that’s cracked and worn, and there’s a bracket underneath that’s broken and can’t be replaced,” the volunteer said. “We’re riding on a prayer every day when it goes out.”

The nonprofit needs the refrigerated van because it picks up meat and produce from stores like Publix and Walmart. The food pantry is contractually committed to picking up frozen or chilled items with refrigerated transportation. For now, the pantry manages and prays. But that will keep the van rolling for only so long.

“We need the truck because we have to have a way to transport frozen meat,” Aultman said. “Publix and Walmart donate meat that’s been flash frozen. We’re doing fundraisers and sending grants out. We have about $65,000 of our goal of $100,000. The vans are very expensive. We need funding. We need to bring it on home for the rest of the $35,000-$40,000.”

The Clothes Closet and Food Pantry serve families from Orange Park and Fleming Island. If the van breaks down, families won’t be able to get meat, milk, eggs or produce. Each family gets a week’s worth of chilled items as well as non-perishable goods.

“We are committed to providing our clients with nutritious food options, but we need a reliable refrigerated van to make that possible,” said President Mandy Nelson of The Clothes Closet and Food Pantry. “We are calling on the community to support our efforts and help us purchase this vital piece of equipment.

“I have personally seen the looks of gratitude, hope, and even tears, on the faces of so many clients.”

Residents who want to help can write checks to the pantry, and on the memo line, write “Van” and mail the check to P.OI. Box 2892, Orange Park, 32067. Or you can stop by the pantry at 1010 Fromhart St. across from the Orange Park Athletic Association fields in Orange Park from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday and the first three Saturdays of each month.

Other ways to donate is by scanning the QR code or visiting www.ccfpop.org/checkout/donate/.

“We need the refrigerated van because we’re getting in more produce,” said pantry secretary Kathy Wray. “A lot of the (non-perishable) stuff we have on the shelves, we can store it in our overflow area. But our freezers will be full. With God’s luck and God’s grace, we should be OK for another three months for food, but we have an ongoing need for the refrigerated van.”

Without a refrigerated van, Aultman said the organization could lose its contracts with suppliers. The group said it needs the replace its old van by July 31.

“At the close of the campaign, any spillover (of donations) will go toward food acquisition,” Nelson said.