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Spreading hope, food and dollars

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | December 16, 2020 1:06 AM

ATHOL — On a typical day, the ABC Food Bank serves about 50 families. But on Tuesday, with the help of the Joshua Brandt Foundation, they fed over 130.

In the basement of Athol City Hall and Community Center, cardboard boxes filled with food were scattered on the floor. Sixty were from the Klinge family, who started the foundation over a year ago in memory of Harvest Klinge's son, Joshua.

"People that knew my son said it was great to see his spirit still alive with us doing this," Klinge said. "He was just that type of person. He wanted to help people out."

Since moving to Athol in 2018, the Klinges have become involved with the ABC Food Bank, which serves Athol, Bayview, and Careywood.

Making the Christmas meal box was a spur-of-the-moment decision, Klinge said, after seeing how depleted the nonprofit's pantry was earlier this month. Over the years, Klinge said she's seen the food bank grow.

"Originally, there were about 40 families, at the most," Klinge said. "This year and last it has increased to 60, which is about 203 people. So the need is greater."

Crunched for time, the Klinges called Super 1 to secure the necessary groceries before stocks sold out. Through Super 1 management and staff's help, the Klinges met the Tuesday deadline.

"Super 1 has been fantastic," Klinge said. "They didn't have 60 of all the items when I called, but Randy, one of the managers, helped us make sure we had everything ready by Sunday to prep the boxes."

Giving back, especially this year as the holiday season approached, was more significant for Klinge. Due to the trials of COVID-19, on top of the daily struggles families bear, they hoped a little extra food would go a long way.

"People need something extra to smile about, to give them hope that everything is going to be OK," Klinge said. "Especially children; they need to know that. When the family isn't as stressed about food in the cupboard, that means presents can be under the tree."

The ABC Food Bank is supplied mostly by donations. Head organizer Charlotte Hooper has volunteered with the nonprofit since the 1990s after working as the Athol city clerk and treasurer.

Families come to the food bank every Tuesday, Hooper said. This week, some 204 families signed up, and walk-ins were welcomed too.

From the back door, volunteers unloaded wholesale carts of produce, meat, dairy and canned goods. Tucked away behind a Dutch door that acted as Hooper's check-in counter, towers of fruit and vegetable crates and two restaurant-grade freezers held even more items that would be gone by day's end.

"I feel really blessed, the way the community comes beside us and helps us with volunteers and funds to purchase food and take care of each other," Hooper said.

With the additional Joshua Brandt Foundation boxes, families that showed up Tuesday also left with a $40 Super 1 gift card. As Hooper checked people in, she whirled around the building, grabbing one of everything until the supplies ran out.

"We have food, so we're not going to turn anyone away," Hooper said. "We always plan for extra people because we do want to help them."

Though the Christmas meal boxes were just one donation by the Klinge family and Joshua Brandt Foundation this year, they aspire to fill the community's stomachs and hearts through programs to come.

"People have to have hope when things are not going as well as they could be. It's important, especially now, for the community to come together to help," Klinge said. "Here in Idaho, people have big hearts for our neighbors and our community."

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Charles Lounsbury, a day volunteer with Farragut Storage, packs up one of the 60 boxes of food donated by the Klinge family through the Joshua Brandt Foundation Tuesday at the ABC Food Bank. (MADISON HARDY/Press)

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Charlotte Hooper, the head-organizer and powerhouse of the ABC Food Bank in Athol standing in her dutch door window ready to help the next family in need Tuesday morning. (MADISON HARDY/Press)

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Brittany Klinge (left) and Harvest Klinge (right) help pass out the 60 Christmas meal boxes they donated to the ABC Food Bank in Athol through the Joshua Brandt Foundation. (MADISON HARDY/Press)

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The Joshua Brandt Foundation donated 60 Christmas meal boxes to the ABC Food Bank Tuesday morning, which would help feed over 200 families in the Athol, Bayview, Careywood area. (MADISON HARDY/Press)