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Shopping for dinner: Dickinson's AMEN Food Pantry launches 'Pack-A-Basket' initiative

Mike Williams of Dickinson browsed through the grocery shelves on Thursday, looking for a box of stuffing for his Christmas dinner.

It wasn't a conventional grocery store, but rather the AMEN Food Pantry.

A native of Portland, Williams moved to Dickinson 1 1/2 years ago. Employment with pipeline construction has slowed and he was referred to the food pantry by friends.

"They told me, well you're down on your luck right now, so you need a little bit of help," Williams said. "So, go up to Social Services and they will give you a food voucher. And I'm here now picking up food I need for my Christmas dinner."

Williams' mother lives in Dickinson -- the main reason for moving here, Williams said.

"Actually, by myself I could do it, but I'm trying to help my mother out," he said.

Food pantry volunteers Pat Stanton and Veronica Gayda were on hand to fill the order.

Stanton was looking for a volunteer opportunity when she recently moved to Dickinson.

A longtime volunteer, Gayda said it's fun to help those who are in need.

The AMEN food pantry's mission is the same as its acronym -- Association to Meet Emergency Needs, Board President Ron Keller said.

He works closely with Marilyn Kessel, who has served on the board since its inception about 25 years ago.

"It's a rewarding mission and if we can help one person who needs it, that makes it all worthwhile," she said.

November's statistics indicated 99 adults and 87 children came for food assistance. A total of 4,909 pounds of food was distributed in November.

"It doesn't look like it will get any less," Keller said. "It's going to continue to escalate when the drilling is here."

Because of holiday giving by businesses and individuals, the shelves are full.

"But here's the deal, during the holiday season we're fine," Keller said. "You don't know how much we appreciate that. This town has always stepped up when we've asked them. But, people are hungry in March, too."

The next food drive is the Postal Carrier's "Stamp Out Hunger" drive in May.

"Sometimes we go from January to May, scratching our heads," he said.

The board of directors recently approved a "Pack-A-Basket" January food initiative proposed by Bonita Ellis of The Dickinson Press.

"The idea is to present a basket to area business places the first of the month," she said. "It's placed in the employees' break room and AMEN Food Pantry picks it up the end of the month. Anybody can go to the grocery store and throw in a can of soup or a can of tuna fish into the basket."

The initiative started with a discussion by Ellis and her fellow employees of what they could do to provide one Thanksgiving dinner for a needy family. The response exceeded her expectations.

"As a result, we had 12 boxes of food," Ellis said.

For more information, call the AMEN Food Pantry number, 701-483-4344.