As the holiday season approaches, imagine if you were unable to provide adequate food for your family.

As the holiday season approaches, imagine if you were unable to provide adequate food for your family.  A feast at Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s, like most of us enjoy, is just a dream to many families who live in Ramsey County.

One of the ways you can help families in the Lake Region have a little brighter holiday this year is to give to the Stuff-A-Truck program, which kicks off Monday, Oct. 16 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 12 at both Leevers Foods locations.
This is the 15th year of that holiday program of giving.

Frank Mack who manages Leevers Foods North has stepped in to take the reigns of the program for this special year. He says they are in the process of identifying items that the Hope Center’s new director, Katie Fitch has identified she would like to see donated.
Fitch moved to Devils Lake approximately a year and a half ago, from Tennessee. Her background is in fundraising and volunteerism, so she was a perfect fit for the Hope Center. She’s been its director since May.

Thanks to the efforts of the students, faculty and staff of Central Middle School Stuff-A-Truck has dramatically increased since it began here 15 years ago.
They have collection sites in the school and the parents and students, everyone involved at CMS, gets involved in the food drive.

In fact the Leevers’ manager gives the Central Middle School students credit for the tremendous increased success of the program and hopes for future growth.
“They have taken this on as a challenge among the classes at CMS - a Prime Time competition - and the last two years they filled more trucks than ever,” Mack  said.
Last year they filled five trucks - how many will they fill this year?

The Hope Center
The Hope Center is the source for emergency food assistance program for the community. The Hope Center Board and volunteers remodeled a portion of the former Eagles building located 313 3rd Street NE, west of Nellie’s Bar and now they operate the food pantry for the community of Devils Lake and the Lake Region - all of Ramsey County.

What can you do?
Between Monday, Oct. 16 and Sunday Nov. 12 you can  drop off non-perishable food and toiletry items at either Leevers locations or make a cash donation at the register when you’re going through the check out.
 “One hundred percent of what is given stays in the Lake Region,” Fitch says.
She also said recently they’ve seen a 20 percent increase in families using the Hope Center to feed their families.
Something she’s really proud of is the “Client Choice” area where client shoppers can select items from a growing designated area things that normally aren’t on the shelves at a run-of-the-mill food pantry.

What do they need?
Hope Center volunteers recommend the items needed at the pantry include the following:
The top three are
•peanut butter
•canned tuna
•canned chicken
Then the list includes other items like:
•boxed dinners like macaroni and cheese
•canned soups like vegetable, chicken noodle, chicken vegetable, vegetable beef, minestrone
•canned vegetables like canned peas, green beans, carrots, mixed vegetables
•canned fruit like peaches or pears, fruit cocktail
•baked beans
•spaghetti sauce
•whole grain pasta
•juices
•dry milk
•jams and jellies
•dried fruit, raisins, applesauce
•granola bars
•cereals - especially the healthy ones like Cheerios, Life, Wheaties, Chex, Raisin Bran or Oatmeal
 •Toiletries are also needed, such as deodorant, shampoo, diapers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, incontinence products and things like that.
Of the 11,000 people in Ramsey County more than 12 percent live below the poverty line and need some help either on a regular basis or occasionally.

In September 2016 271 households were served - the highest number so far! This includes 294 children, 314 adults and 90 seniors over age 60. The total persons served - 698. The numbers for 2017 have increased beyond that according to Fitch.

Flagged, pre-bagged
Mack said items will be “flagged” throughout both Leevers stores to assist customers who aren't sure what to buy and they will also have pre-bagged groceries available to purchase and donate.

Cash, too
Cash donations, too, are always welcome, Mack says. When you go through the check-out just ask the checker to add on a $1, $5, $10 or $20 donation to Stuff-A-Truck.
But, Mack stressed, the items do not have to be purchased at Leevers.
“The food products can come from anywhere — your home pantry, another store — it doesn't matter as long as it's not out of date, opened or damaged,” he said.

Mack said he is excited the campaign is getting under way and he hopes it goes as well, if not better than in past years.
“It's something Leevers has taken very personally,” he said. “We look forward to it each year.”
In fact all eight Leevers stores do Stuff-A-Truck in their communities to help out for the holidays.
A large bin will be placed in the front of each Leevers store and donations can be made any time during business hours.

For more information about the Hope Center go to www.hopecenterdevilslake.com or on Facebook at /hopecenterdl or hope_center@icloud.com for e-mails.