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The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

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Three organizations, one goal: helping to feed Frisco

Michael Martin
Store shelves at the Frisco Family Services Market are stocked with staples such as pasta, canned vegetables, and countless other groceries.

Food pantries and similar volunteer organizations have been around for generations, providing a helping hand to those in need. However, the past few years have brought many ups and downs for families and students alike which has placed a stronger emphasis on such nonprofits..

You never really know who it is that needs help,

— Peter Ellwood

Many of these organizations such as Frisco Family Services, Frisco Lovepacs, and Frisco Fast Packs have become increasingly more active over the last few years as a result of events such as COVID-19 and “Snowmageddon”.

For Lovepacs Frisco Co-Lead Peter Ellwood, the opportunity to work with a nonprofit that works so closely with families has been eye opening.

“You never really know who it is that needs help,” Ellwood said. “The families who come through these programs, they don’t carry themselves differently than anyone else you would meet. You wouldn’t know by listening that they are in need of help.”

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During the pandemic, some people have started to develop a deeper understanding of what it’s like to live in uncertainty; not knowing what’s to come next.

“Each person has something they can offer,” Ellwood said. “It isn’t always a black and white where some people are doing fine and others are struggling. Everyone is struggling with something. Everyone needs help with something.”

At Lovepacs, this means providing food for the 13% of Frisco ISD students that are economically disadvantaged. 

“Our main goal is to feed children in need,” Ellwood said. “What that means for us is, with kids on the free and reduced lunch program, when they are home, especially on long holiday breaks, they don’t have access to the meals they usually get being on the free and reduced lunch program. We provide them with enough food to cover their breakfast, lunch, and a snack for every day that they are on a break from school.”

As the world changed around them, these food pantries had to adapt to continue to meet the demands of their changing society.

For Frisco Family Services Market Manager Ronny Hill, curbside pickup was a new, fresh way to continue to distribute food.

“COVID in the very beginning was extremely busy,” Hill said. “However, we had to shut our doors for a time and do curbside pickup only for a couple of months for the safety of our community. During that time we set up an online ordering system. Now, all of our clients can order their food online like they would at places like Walmart and Kroger.”

Curbside pickup has stayed as busy as ever as some found the experience more efficient.

“I think in a lot of ways we have found that we actually like doing the drive through delivery,” Ellwood said. “In the past, parents would come pick up these boxes of food for the kids at the school, but COVID caused us to change our dispensing methods.”

Throughout this time, the organization saw generous grants from big partners like AT&T, Bank of America, and USAA, that they had never had relationships with before.

For Frisco Fast Packs Executive Director Heather Canterbury, COVID-19 changes things in way many people may not have noticed.  

“I think during the pandemic, everyone really started just looking around at basic human needs,” Canterbury said. People weren’t donating to heart disease or breast cancer foundations as much as they were donating to food pantries, people that provided rental assistance, shelter, or things like that. I think we were actually one of the more fortunate organizations through all of this, that we are in the basic human-needs space.”

Everyone really started just looking around at basic human needs,

— Heather Canterbury

On the social side of things, while many believed COVID-19 limited a vast majority of social interaction, for Ellwood, it paved the way for stronger relationships with partner families whom they never would have begun to know otherwise.

“I think the most rewarding part of what we do is when we get to have a relational component to it with the families that we are assisting, our volunteers, and bringing our community together,” Ellewood said. “In the past, we didn’t really get to have a lot of interaction with the families that were receiving the boxes with the old way we used to disperse meals.”

Now, placing a name to face with each delivery has become the norm.

“When we deliver a box of food to these families, it is no longer a nameless, faceless, interaction where we drop it off at the school and hope it gets to the right place,” Ellwood said. “We have actually seen a lot of the same families recently and we have gotten to know them and their stories. It really does make a big difference and we get to make that connection.”

One element to the ever growing food donation organizations has persisted: the stigma behind regular use.

“Many people still see it as a bad thing to have to come to a food pantry,” Hill said. “It is not. None of our clients are poor. They are just going through hardships. With this, we have decided to rename our facility Frisco Family Services Market.”

This is a common belief as areas such as Frisco have become heavily stereotyped according to Hill and Ellwood.

“A lot of times people think Frisco is very affluent and that there is not really anyone who needs help in our community, but what we’ve seen over the past few years is that that isn’t always true,” Ellwood said. “You don’t always know the full story of the person sitting in your classroom.”

We can all use help from our community. It is up to us to make that difference for someone,

— Peter Ellwood

As the world continues to try and bounce back from life altering events, Canterbury believes she has seen the willingness of her community to lend a helping hand.

“People want to help,” Canterbury said. “They just don’t know how. Helping at our facility is one of the biggest ways. Here, volunteers can help sort through bins, pack bags, manage donations, excetera. Other ways to help can be through food drives or monetary donations.”

For Ellwood, stepping up to fill these needed roles in the community is crucial.

“Everyone has hard times,” Ellwood said. “Everyone has challenges to face. We can all use help from our community. It is up to us to make that difference for someone.”

This story was originally published on Wingspan on January 21, 2022.