"Our co-workers were very generous," said Dave Steinmann, St. John's Hospital-Cassville vice president and chief operating officer. "Our co-workers have talked about how it is hard for them right now with today's food prices, but they still donated with their hearts."
"It is hard for everyone right now," said Doug Stroemel, St. John's Hospital West Region president. "It is challenging for organizations too with all of the needs out there, like the Joplin tornado, but our co-workers did an awesome job during this year's food drive."
During the food drive, hospital employees competed as departments to collect the most food for the pantry. Local employees were also challenged to collect more food than St. John's Hospital-Aurora employees collected.
The Cassville hospital won the challenge. Department team winners were treated to a free catered lunch.
St. John's also partnered with employees by offering a 20-cent donation for every pound of food that was collected. On Sept. 15, hospital officials and employees presented Janet Mills, of the Cassville Community Food Pantry, with a check for $678.80.
"Because of the cost of living, demand is up at the pantry," said Mills. "When people are forced to choose between paying for their utilities and transportation and purchasing food, a lot of the times the food budget is so reduced.
"We have really tapped into a vulnerable part of the community this year, including the elderly, disabled and children," said Mills. "These people don't have access to financial improvement."
During the first half of September, the food pantry served over 150 families. In August, the pantry recorded record numbers. A total of 370 families utilized the free food service.
"That was our biggest month ever," said Mills. "We are seeing a lot of new faces, but we have been able to help people every month. We are so excited that we can do this, and that people continue to join hands with us in this effort."
Mills said that the food donations provided by St. John's Hospital-Cassville helps the pantry remain successful. Hospital staff members who participate in the food drive often donate items that are especially enjoyed by families and children.
"They bring in fun stuff," said Mills. "They bring us stuff like juice and other food items that kids and young families really enjoy."
St. John's Hospital-Cassville has hosted the summer food drive since 2008. Over the last four years, the hospital has collected over 12,000 pounds of food for the Cassville Community Food Pantry.
Located in the Cassville United Methodist Church, the Cassville Community Food Pantry is supported by the Cassville UMC congregation and members of the St. Edwards Catholic Church in Cassville. The pantry also receives donations from many local businesses, individuals and organizations.