The Circle of Page, which operates the food bank and the soup kitchen, was blessed last week by a donation of food from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Around a dozen LDS elders helped local volunteers unload and put away the food in about two hours.
Crystal Phillips, director of the food bank, said that sometimes it “takes a village” to run the food bank, and on Jan. 11 an “army” showed up and made quick work of organizing and putting away the food.
Phillips and her management and networking abilities were able to get volunteers together on short notice and successfully and efficiently organize the food. While it might seem to be a large amount of food, the need is so great that it won’t last long.
Phillips took on the job as food bank director in September 2021 after the previous director had to leave due to family health issues. Phillips stepped up when no one else did. She heard that the food bank might have to close unless someone became the director.
Closing the food bank was not an option for Phillips. She appreciated the value of the food bank to the community, and the need has only increased. She brought her energy and determination to the position, and the community has greatly benefited from her dedication.
When she first started, there wasn’t much food available for those in need. St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix regularly contributed food, but more was needed. Phillips started by calling churches and businesses in Page and left messages. She told them that there was going to be a food drive the following Sunday, and she would be there to receive food donations.
The local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the first church to respond, and before she knew it, there was a line of over 50 cars that ended up donating 1000 pounds of food. Before long, other donations arrived. The First Baptist Church donates food every Monday. Faith Bible Church of Page has donated cash to help families pay utility bills. Without these donations, some members of the community would have no food, heat, water or gas.
Local businesses have contributed as well. Coconino Federal Credit Union held a food collection drive. The Page/Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce also collected and donated food. The local radio station donated airtime about people donating food.
Safeway and Wal-Mart regularly donate “day-old” perishable food and produce that is picked up by Amangiri, City of Page, and ACE Hardware employees. as well as Brady Budd and the elders, on a rotating basis, and delivered to the food bank.
Salt River Project and the American Motorcycle Association have been continuing contributors. Individual members of the community have graciously donated fresh eggs and garden produce from local gardens. There are many more people and businesses to thank.
Despite the community’s generosity, the need for food continues with no end in sight. Recently, Phillips spoke with Kristy Robinson, LDS Relief Society president, and told her that the food bank is in constant need for food donations. Robinson spoke with Ward President Michael Skaggs. Skaggs called Phillips and asked if she needed food, which she did.
Skaggs said he would “arrange for something.” A few weeks ago, Phillips received a call informing her that there would be a shipment of 11 pallets of food coming her way. On Jan. 11, that shipment arrived with 25 pallets, approximately 12 tons of food, in a full-size semitractor-trailer.
Having been notified of the larger shipment, Phillips scrambled to find enough volunteers to help unload the food shipment. Twenty-four volunteers showed up, including around a dozen elders from the LDS Church who call many different places home. Some had never been to Page before. A volunteer from Page Lumber operated a loaned company forklift to help unload the trailer of food, greatly speeding up the unloading process.
Phillips has not stopped with this donation. She recently secured a $30,000 grant from Coconino County Health and Education Department and will be taking delivery of an almost-new van next week from Feeding America to help deliver food to families unable to drive.
Despite these generous donations and grants, there still is a substantial need for sustained support.
The food bank helps many people. With food prices rising, some families can barely afford to feed their families, especially after trying to pay rent, utilities and medical care. Often, a healthy diet is sacrificed to survive. Some are homeless and are especially needy.
While these donations are greatly appreciated, the need for food for the community is large and is not expected to go away. The Circle of Page is a non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible. Cash donations can be directly deducted from an Arizona taxpayer’s tax bill. Individual taxpayers can donate $400, and couples can get an $800 tax credit each year.
Members of the Page community are urged to contribute in any way they can by volunteering time, donating food or cash, or even planting an extra plant or two and donating the produce to the food pantry.
Volunteers are needed on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at St. David’s Episcopal Church at the corner of S. Lake Powell Blvd. and Aqua Avenue in Page.
There are many ways to help. Every minute of volunteer time, every ounce of donated food, every dollar counts. For more information, and those needing food, please contact Crystal Phillips at [email protected]