Food bank volunteer honored for decades of devotion
Elmer Brown, 92, of McDonald packs food Thursday at the McDonald Area Food Bank. Borough council recently recognized him for his 30 years of service to the food bank.
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When Elmer Brown was a boy in the 1920s, his four older siblings agreed to go without Christmas presents one year so that their parents could buy him a football.
Having been on the receiving side of goodwill during a lean holiday, Mr. Brown later spent time on the other side, dedicating decades to providing food to families in and around McDonald.
McDonald council recognized Mr. Brown this month for 30 years of service to the McDonald Area Food Bank, where he helped collect, package and distribute food every month.
"I don't like all the bouquets you're throwing at me, but I appreciate everything you've done here," Mr. Brown said at the Nov. 5 council meeting, following a plaque presentation by Mayor Terry Bennett and a standing ovation from town officials, food bank volunteers and members of his family.
Hannah Fay Descutner, food bank secretary, said Mr. Brown made special trips, day and night, to deliver food in emergency situations.
"He was wonderful," she said. "He was really deserving of the recognition."
Mr. Brown, 92, recently retired from volunteering and serving as food bank president. On Thursday, he visited the food pantry in the McDonald municipal building to talk about his experiences and demonstrate how to pack boxes for clients.
Two rooms were stocked with cans and packages of food such as soup, tuna, beans, applesauce, peanut butter, spaghetti, cookies and -- a Thanksgiving staple -- boxed stuffing mix.
Mr. Brown said he always enjoyed giving out groceries.
"It made me feel great," he said. "It was nice to see people get food. It was work, but it was fun."
In 1982, Mr. Brown retired as a railroad brakeman and soon began volunteering for the newly created food bank at the requests of his pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church -- now called McDonald Presbyterian Church -- and of his brother-in-law, Cliff Dowler, now 99 and living in Connecticut.
The pantry started in the former municipal building at West Lincoln Avenue and North McDonald Street. It later grew and moved to the current borough complex on School Street.
Volunteers previously had to arrange for a truck and pick up food themselves, Mr. Brown said.
Nowadays, the McDonald pantry receives monthly deliveries from the Greater Washington County Food Bank in Eighty Four, which helps supply 36 pantries using state and federal funding and groceries from local food drives.
On delivery days, volunteers in McDonald help unload trucks. On distribution days, they arrive around 7:30 a.m., make coffee and start packing, Mr. Brown said.
Mr. Brown's daughter, Maryellen Moorehead -- who told the story about the Christmas football -- said her father was so dedicated to his volunteer work that he once nearly skipped traveling to a relative's out-of-town wedding.
"He didn't want to miss food bank," Ms. Moorehead said. "He arranged his life around it."
Mr. Brown also has two sons, Bill and Terry.
Molly Errett, a food bank co-coordinator, said about 18 volunteers a month come from an association of eight churches in McDonald, Midway and Mount Pleasant.
In addition, groceries and monetary donations come from churches, individuals, community groups, businesses and Fort Cherry School District students, she said.
"Every little organization in the community is good about giving," Ms. Errett said. "We're just very fortunate that everybody is able to give."
The food bank serves 100 to 120 families a month from McDonald, Midway, Bulger, Hickory and other nearby communities as well as about 25 residents of the Haveloch Commons Presbyterian Senior Care apartments in McDonald.
Distribution usually is held from 8 to 10 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month, but an earlier Thanksgiving distribution will be held today. The December distribution also will be on the third Wednesday.
New clients may visit during distribution hours and apply for food assistance. Donations may be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays in the borough building, 151 School St. The food bank especially needs donations in January and February, after the holidays.
First Published November 21, 2012 5:33 am