South Hills Interfaith Ministries, better known as SHIM, is in the business of keeping people fed. And for families who struggle daily to have enough food, the holiday season can be especially stressful. To help make the season a little brighter for everyone, SHIM is looking for donations of both food and unwrapped gifts for their annual Angel Emporium holiday gift drive.
Ann Callen, SHIM’s Community Relations Manager, says now is an important time to donate because food inventory is low. More than 2,000 people depend on SHIM for additional food, so the demand is high, particularly before Thanksgiving.
While homelessness and food insecurity are often thought of as urban problems, that’s not necessarily true. As many as 12 percent of families in Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park, Baldwin, Whitehall, South Park and Keystone Oaks are estimated to live at or below the poverty line. SHIM does its best to make sure those families have access to quality calories by offering access to food pantries; one is located in Bethel Park, the other in Whitehall. They also have several other ongoing operations, including clothing and winter coat drives, utility assistance, and assisting kids with their school supplies.
There are a number of ways to donate food. Groceries are always welcome at SHIM’s Bethel Park location, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’re interested in running a food drive within your community, SHIM will happily provide you with paper collection bags (that say “Bag it up for SHIM,”) posters and informational fliers. Contributors are asked to donate only unexpired items that they would like to consume.
According to Callen, the most needed food items right now are canned pasta meals, fruit cocktail, jarred pasta sauce, boxed rice, boxed stuffing or potatoes, condiments, canned meat, baking items and boxed baking mixes.
There’s also a “virtual food drive” page on SHIM’s website, where you can purchase certain food items in bulk from your computer. SHIM receives a discount on these items, which means more rice, eggs or cereal per donated dollar.
SHIM’s holiday gift program is also underway. Their Angel Emporium gift donations culminate in a shopping experience, where SHIM families can choose what they’d like to give over the holidays. They hold two separate “shops”–one for children and one for adults-and wrap the presents for “shoppers.” Those who’d like to donate are asked to give unwrapped gifts, so recipients can choose what they’d like. Last year, 848 people were able to take home presents for their loved ones because of generous donations from the community. Information about running your own gift drive is also available on SHIM’s website.
There are currently 10 known Angel Emporium drives as well as 10 known food drives happening now in the South Hills area. As for Mt. Lebanon, KinderCare on N Highland Road is collecting unwrapped gifts until December 5 and residents are encouraged to contact SHIM if they’re interested in having their own drive of any kind.