Woodlake Awards: Soul Food
Father David Brown has been nurturing the people of Woodlake both nutritionally and spiritually for nearly a decade.
He came to Woodlake in October 2004 after being appointed priest at St. Clement of Alexandria Church in Woodlake. He immediately began helping out when he could at the Woodlake Food Pantry at the corner of Antelope Avenue and Palm Street. He eventually took over operation of the food pantry from Pastor Randy Powell in 2007. His dedication to feeding Woodlake’s neediest residents is why the Woodlake Food Pantry was named Organization of the Year.
“I got involved just as a way to help the community,” he said.
The Woodlake Food Pantry provides food boxes for 140-200 families, or about 500-600 people per month. Food boxes normally consist of rice and beans, pretzels, canned fruits and vegetables, five juice boxes and a frozen chicken. Brown said he has enjoyed his time helping those in need in his community. Despite his desire to continue to help feed the families of Woodlake, Brown said his health and time are dwindling. Unloading and stacking bags of rice, canned fruits and vegetables and frozen meat has taken its toll on his back and knees. The priest moves gingerly around the pantry as he prepares boxes for families to take home for dinner. Brown said he will also have less time to spend at the pantry after being asked to pastor a church in Hollister on a part-time basis.
“I didn’t seek out this award, but hopefully it will bring some attention to the pantry,” Brown said. “I have contacted a few people but no one is willing to take over. I used to have someone helping me but he moved away. Ideally you need four or five people to rotate the days.”
Brown said the pantry, like most food closets, is run on a shoestring budget. He said the pantry has been blessed with local service clubs, such as the Woodlake Rotary and Woodlake Kiwanis Club, which provide enough money to cover utility costs for most months. Father Brown said the real problem is getting enough food to help families in need. He said the pantry receives a monthly allotment from FoodLink of Tulare County as well as some additional sources, but relies heavily on grass roots food drives.
“We are in a constant food drive phase,” Brown said. “When the economy went downhill a lot of our sources for food dried up.”
Each year the Woodlake Kiwanis Club hosts a Run for Hunger 5K around Bravo Lake and the U.S. Postal Service Letter Carriers hold an annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive, where residents leave non-perishable food items on the curb to be picked up with the mail. However, more recently, students at Castle Rock Elementary held a food drive that far exceeded the other two events, raising 2,000 items for the pantry.
“This is far and away the largest food drive I have seen in Woodlake. The postal workers and the high school both do a great job, for which I am truly grateful, but the kids of Castle Rock beat them both. What does it say to our young people if they do such an amazing job and the adults let the pantry die. I am praying that someone will step up to the plate.”