Two Kingston piglets are growing up in an unusual nursery, amidst copy machines, embroidery equipment, computers and a packaging center.
Ogled by customers and coddled by staff, porkers Abraham and Charlie, along with their Dachshund sister Mellanie, are part and parcel of life at Kingston Mail and Print.
Because of their high level of darlingness, customers want to have their pictures taken with these elfin swine. Seeing an opportunity to do good, owner Amy Spray began to charge $2 for that selfie privilege. Proceeds go to support the Kingston Food Bank.
I’d heard about our downtown food bank and decided to pay it a visit. Although off the beaten track, it was easy to spot once I got near — a dark blue house with boxes piled on the porch and prominent Food Bank signage in the window.
Barb Fulton met me at the door and showed me around. Knowing that it was practically a one-woman show, I didn’t expect to find two rooms filled with canned goods that lined the walls and stacks of boxes of dried cereal.
Off to the side was another room that had a rack of clothes. Clothing, as well as boxes and bags of food, are free. Shoes too.
A large table held a basket of fresh bread, various perishable foodstuffs, and an iced tray of packaged veggies — compliments of the Grub Hut. Barb said the Grub Hut is very generous and ongoing with its food donations.
Looking around at the well-stocked cache, I asked her what the food bank needed that isn’t being donated. She replied, “Personal items, toiletries, soaps for washing dishes and clothes.”
In a week, Barb and her three volunteers serve about 30 families, plus a couple of single men. They also collect sheets, blankets and sleeping bags to take to the homeless encampment in Indianola. She showed me a rolled up, insulated mat, which was crocheted from 750 plastic bags. The mats are made and donated by women from Redeemer United Methodist Church.
The food bank has been here for 60 years. Barb was 5 when her parents started it in their home, gathering food and feeding the hungry. She has been working to provide food for those in need ever since. Even when the building her father built in 1955 was torn down, even when she was homeless, Barb persisted.
Five years ago, when the food bank was without a building, she took her motor home, filled it with food and parked it on Lindvog. Folks would come there for their sustenance. People in the neighborhood raised enough money for Barb to rent a site for a year.
Toward the end of that year, she began to panic because she was out of funds to cover the next month’s rent. Then a miracle bloomed. A man who was gravely ill read about the desperate need of the food bank for rent money. When Michael Szymanski died, he left half of his estate to pay the food bank’s overhead for five years.
At that point in her story, Barb had to hand me a Kleenex. If there is anything I love, it’s a story of life giving to life.
Barb was honored at the Denim and Diamonds Gala at Village Green Community Center in early March. She was named one of Kingston’s 10 Hidden Gems — residents who work quietly behind the scenes to make this community work. Barb beamed as she showed me her award.
You can join the piglets in helping the food bank. Together, many doing a little can help a lot.
Doors are open for pickup noon to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. One box and one bag of food are given to each family or individual.
Drop off is every day at the food bank, 26102 Illinois Ave.; just leave donations on the porch.
Food Bank barrels are set up to receive contributions at the Food Market and Albertsons.