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Neighbors helping neighbors in Atkins


David Duball is shown at the Atkins Helping Hands food pantry in Atkins. The pantry serves needy eastern Benton County residents and is a community outreach project.

A neighbor-helping-neighbor effort born from last year’s floods has given birth to Benton County’s newest food pantry, Atkins Helping Hands.

The brainchild of Atkins residents David and Pamela Duball, Atkins Helping Hands started small in June 2008 after the Duballs saw the desperate needs of flood victims, including tenants who lived in the some of the couple’s 11 rental properties in Vinton and Cedar Rapids.

Since then, the pantry has gained widespread community and area support, outgrown its original location and, since this spring, experienced a 10 percent monthly increase in the people it serves.

An Atkins town-wide garage sale held the weekend after the flood kicked off the project. Realizing so many were in need, Pamela Duball and a friend walked the town asking for donations of food and unsold clothing and furniture from the garage sale.

“We were overwhelmed,” said Duball. “They brought it to our house, and it completely took over our garage, (overflowed) into the house and into the driveway.”

Duball started to promote the food pantry around town by talking to various groups and posting flyers. It wasn’t long before he had the support he needed – the Atkins Community Club jumped on the bandwagon with ongoing financial support and donations, and many individuals and civic groups began to help.

“With our small community, everybody jumped onboard. They backed it 100 percent,” Duball stated.

Response from people in need has been strong from the beginning. Duball said as soon as donations started to come in, food and other items began to fly off the shelves.

“We had families come get clothes for their kids and they would take toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes. It was going,” Duball said.

It wasn’t long before the food pantry needed a permanent and secure home. David teaches high school Sunday School at Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church and Pamela serves on the church session. The church leadership enthusiastically endorsed their suggestion to house the pantry in David’s Sunday School area. The pantry opened in its new location last March.

Governed by a six-member volunteer board, Atkins Helping Hands has served needy residents of Atkins, Shellsburg, Newhall and the surrounding area. The number of users grew to between 45 and 48 in October. With other food pantries located in Vinton and Belle Plaine, Atkins Helping Hands fills a need on the eastern side of the county.

“That’s why I designed to put it right here. We have people from Newhall who won’t go to Belle Plaine or Vinton,” Duball said.

In addition to donations from individuals and various groups, Benton County Boy Scout troops, HACAP and the Salvation Army help stock the shelves. Fresh produce is frequently donated in the summer from backyard gardens, and The Atkins Community Club will sponsor a Christmas ham and turkey giveaway at the pantry this Sunday, Dec. 20.

Several fundraisers have bolstered the pantry’s treasury, including a successful November soup supper hosted by Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church. Proceeds from the supper purchased an upright freezer that HACAP recently stocked with 75 pounds of turkey breast.

“It seems when you have a project, the community gets involved. It was phenomenal,” Duball said of the fund-raiser.

A Movie in the Park event last summer and a Halloween haunted house, hosted by the Duballs, brought in canned or boxed food donations to keep the shelves full.

Atkins Helping Hands, located in the church at 121 Main Ave., is open the first and third Sundays of each month from noon to 2 p.m., or by appointment. Visits are generally limited to once a month or more frequently in case of emergency. The only requirement is need.

Duball stated, “We don’t ask for income verification. We will ask in confidentiality for their names, and that’s only for our records. Everything’s on the quiet, and we don’t publicize anybody’s name.”

The panty is currently in need of paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, dinner napkins), toiletries, shampoo, hair conditioner and dishwashing soap. Baby products are not needed at this time.

Anyone interested in donating items may contact Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church at (319) 446-7196 or David and Pamela Duball at (319) 981-6060. Cash donations are also welcome and are tax deductible.


UPDATED December 16, 2009 11:23 AM

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