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Pantry Volunteers - the National Charity League

(By Tedi Mae Tortolano)

As defined on the National Charity League website

The National Charity League, Inc. (NCL) is a non-profit national organization that is committed to the development of mothers and daughters as leaders and is dedicated to improving local communities through hands on volunteerism. The NCL experience inspires and empowers women to succeed as confident well-rounded and socially aware contributors to society.

Our San Fernando chapter of NCL, lead by current President Christine Ross, continues these endeavors with its affiliation with the West Valley Food Pantry. The NCL began its support in 1987 with major financial funding of food and goods, various fund-raising programs, and the active participation of member volunteerism in all these projects. The funds raised through The NCL Charity Ball enable them to give the Pantry a large amount of financial support each year for the food and homeless program through the grant request process.

If you are a West Valley Food Pantry volunteer who works morning or afternoon shifts waiting on clients, you may have worked alongside teams of National Charity League mothers and daughters (seventh grade and above). These NCL teams are most evident during the holiday seasons, when the Food Pantry is busiest and the students are on school breaks. By extending their knowledge above and beyond the practices of social graces, these NCL mother-daughter leadership training programs in community service give the girls life lessons and first-hand experience in the responsibilities of organizing, making arrangements, collecting toys and gift card donations, and setting up for their much-anticipated annual holiday toy drive and "back-to-school" backpack drives. "It is an impactful connection, especially when they speak to the clients and realize how warm, friendly and grateful they are to be receiving assistance" observes Tiffany Takac, VP of Philanthropy.

Terri Zaelke, mother of two daughters that went through the NCL program (Lauren Elizabeth Stengel, 30 years old, married last year, and Caroline Helene, 18 years old, graduating this year from Sierra Canyon) reflects: "Years ago, before the Toy Drive existed, families used to be given one gift for each child (if available) when they came for food in December. As was common, by Christmas Eve we were completely out of toys for boy teens. My daughter called her father to run to her room and get all of her Christmas money, then race to Target and use all to buy boy teen gifts. I've never forgotten her act of generosity, one she learned on her own by the love she developed for supporting the Pantry."

Joanne Norris, mother of Jordan (eight grade) says: "We see the need this fills in the community. In many conversations we have had with the clients they are truly grateful for what the pantry gives them; they wouldn't know how to manage without the assistance of the Pantry."

Samantha and Julie Nadler

Another NCL team: Samantha and Julie Nadler

The West Valley Food Pantry is grateful to all the many NCL mother-daughter teams devoting time in volunteering at the Food Pantry. Allison Gordon, the current WVFP Shift Scheduler (a daunting task) recognized the NCL shift teams that served most frequently during the past year. The mentioned teams were Kristi and Maya Bala, Jennifer and Madison Clark, Edith and Saree Leifer, Nikki and Kate Mead, Joanne and Jordan Norris, Julie and Samantha Nadler, and Bonnie and Petra Stoilkovich. Thank you, to these and all the other teams who help so much!

Senior Wednesdays

(By Ruth Denburg Yoshiwara)

All West Valley Food Pantry Volunteers are capable, but the Senior Wednesday morning shift may be the most capable of all. On the first Wednesday morning of every month, the Pantry gets a huge influx of senior clients who come, not only for their weekly or monthly grocery order, but also for a special ten year old program for seniors offered by the Los Angeles Food Bank executed in the POP parking lot from 9 to 11 a.m.

Known as "Senior Wednesday" at the Food Pantry, but officially known as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program funded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, this program distributes mostly EFAP food, with some additional items from the L A Food Bank. Low income qualification is not needed for this program. Each month, seniors (considered anyone over the age of 61) sign up at a table in the POP courtyard (usually manned by Pantry volunteer Jill Rotner) where they are given a ticket. Then, in exchange for the ticket, each client picks up a bag filled with groceries from tables in the parking lot in front of the storage units (also manned by our volunteers). Every registered senior in the household can get a bag.

Participants in Senior Wednesday need not be registered as Pantry clients, but many of them are, and they come in to the Pantry for their regular food order after picking up the "Senior Wednesday" package. The average number of seniors served on this one day is about 150, so you can imagine the crowd that must be processed in the Pantry! For this reason, Pantry Senior Wednesday usually is assigned 6 volunteers each month. The team is headed by Shift Leader Lee Tishler and manned by a crackerjack crew of "regulars" who have worked together a long time.

For our seniors, the first Wednesday morning of each month is a "Senior Moment" they won't want to forget!

The Food Pantry teams with PATH to serve homeless seniors

Altar Guild with PATH packages

The Prince of Peace Altar Guild pack food packages for homeless seniors

People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) is a non-profit that houses approximately ninety homeless seniors (many of them veterans) in a beautiful apartment building in the West Valley. But none of these seniors has transportation to and from our Pantry. Finding a way to serve this group of potential clients required a little thinking outside of the box (or norm anyway).

PATH has volunteers from the Knights of Pythias who were willing to come to the pantry once a month and transport food to the seniors in their personal cars. The Altar Guild of Prince of Peace volunteered to be the first group to come to the Pantry and pack the month's food into packages. And nearly 60 homeless seniors without transportation became Pantry clients.

A big Thank you to the Altar Guild and the Knights of Pythias! We need volunteer teams to come once a month (the second Thursday) to pack these food distribution bags. If you are already a Pantry volunteer, send an email to to volunteer for a day. If you have not already filled out a volunteer application, go to our Volunteer page and join us.


Each Sunday during this year's Lenten season, the always active Women of Winnetka, a group of volunteers at Saint Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, held a food drive in support WOW Food Drive of the West Valley Food Pantry. This was the second Lenten Food Drive organized by the newly formed group. This year's drive focused on the needs of the homeless in particular, but canned goods, snacks and non-perishables of all kinds were donated by parishioners, then collected and delivered to the Pantry by the WOWs, as they call themselves. Rich Poppenberg, Saint Martin's representative on the Board of The WVFP, worked with the WOWs to help coordinate the drive and answer questions, but it was the amazing Women Of Winnetka who put in the time, effort and commitment to make things happen, and their determination to ensure that "no one goes away hungry" which made this drive such a success. As always, Saint Martin's parishioners responded to this appeal by filling the bins set up in the parish hall. The WOWs look forward to continuing to open their hearts to help WVFP and the community members they serve to truly thrive. Special thanks to Janice Smith and Jan Francis of the WOWs, for their dedication, and to Ruth Mutti and Kate Varley of Saint Martin's for their assistance.

WOW Food Drive

The Women of Winnetka (WOW)