The 2017 United Food Operation (UFO) food distribution program will kickoff on Friday, January 13 at 11:00 A.M. and run through April 1, announced Elaine Harris, chairperson of the group.
The 12 UFO participating food pantries are all experiencing increased needs this season, so the organization expects to use all the help it can get this year.
“I am asking everyone to come to the United Food Operation warehouse for the kickoff program on Jan. 13 at 11:00 A.M. and bring monetary and food contributions,” said Harris. “Also, reach out to other companies and organizations and invite them to drop by with a contribution.”
Since 1982, UFO raises funds around the year and uses them each winter to purchase bulk foods needed by community food pantries around Kanawha and Putnam counties. Food is distributed to the pantries on Saturdays for 12 weeks each winter.
To support feeding needy people in our community, area businesses can collect funds or food during the winter season and UFO will take care of getting food to the community food pantries. UFO charges no overhead on monetary contributions. All the funds go to support food distributions in the Kanawha Valley area.
United Food Operation is an all-volunteer group that operates as a 501c(3) charitable organization. No salaries are paid and the group runs with donated labor and equipment out of donated warehouse space at the Institute Industrial Park. Dow Chemical Company maintains the warehouse facility on behalf of the group. Founded in 1981, the group conducted its first winter season food distribution program in 1982. This winter will be the 36th annual food distribution.
Community members got a first look at the new headquarters of United Food Operation (UFO) Saturday during an open house in Institute.
UFO Chairperson Elaine Harris expressed the groups gratitude to Dow Chemical and Bayer CropScience for their generous donations, which led to UFO basically being given the newly renovated building through a very favorable lease. Surveying the completely remodeled facility, Harris remembered times in years gone by when UFO had to work out of less than optimum space.
“This is a wonderful space—UFO hasn’t always had it so good,” she said, recalling years when they had to move pallets of food around because of leaks in the roof and other times having to work out of basically unheated space in the middle of the winter.
For most of the past decade Bayer CropScience had provided the group use of a good building for food distribution that was located about 150 yards west of the current building. But with Bayer selling much of its Institute Industrial Park space to Dow Chemical last year, the former building’s lot was targeted for other uses and the building scheduled for demolition.
Dow, Bayer work together to help UFO
Knowing that would force UFO to find other facilities, the two companies set about solving the problem. During the transition period, Dow and Bayer got together and identified another building at the very northeast corner of the industrial park that would be good for UFO’s use, but it needed a lot of clean-up and renovation.
Dow agreed to lease the building to UFO at a most favorable $1/year, and Bayer agreed to take the lead on renovating the building to prepare it for UFO’s use. Working together, the two firms did a great job on a relatively short timeline. United Food Operation was able to take possession of the building before the end of 2015.
The building turned out to be the best space UFO has ever had. It has its own private access off Rt. 25 and a totally fenced lot. Inside, the building has warehouse space, a conference/break room, an office, and a bathroom—all kept toasty warm with a good heating system, The cleaned-up, repaired, and freshly painted facility is now the pride and joy of the group.
Mayor Terry Greenlee, from the neighboring city of Dunbar, stopped by and welcomed folks to his part of the county. He expressed his appreciation the work of United Food Operation. He was accompanied by Dunbar Councilman Steve Arnott, who has long been a UFO supporter.
Telecommunications companies have long been core contributors to United Food Operation, providing many thousands of dollars in support through the years. Cheryl Black of Frontier Communications told the group about the company’s efforts this year to raise funds for UFO in cooperation with members of the Communications Workers of America. Contributions from the local unit of Verizon were also acknowledged.
Other contributions acknowledged today were those from Clearon’s South Charleston plant, Chemores of Belle, and IVS Hydro of Institute.
Noble Pickens honored for his years of service
Harris announced that the 2016 food drive was dedicated to Noble Pickens of Dunbar. For many years Pickens was a loyal volunteer, who took a lead role in purchasing food and managing distributions to the participating pantries. Recently, his health has greatly limited his volunteer time with the group.
Another food distribution weekend
On Friday morning, volunteers provided by the St. Albans Community Food Pantry prepared the pallets of food so they could be distributed to the pantries on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, before the Open House, the second weekly food distribution of the season was conducted. This week, UFO is indebted to the volunteers who came from SGS Petroleum Services at the Institute Industrial Park.
Each week, different organizations takes responsibility for recruiting and supplying volunteers needed to perform food sorting on Fridays and loading the pantry trucks on Saturdays.
The program has 10 more weeks of food distributions in it’s winter program this year. In May, it will handle food distributions for the Postal Workers Food Drive. All funds donated this winter will go to provide additional food to the weekly food distributions.
This year’s National Association of Letter Carriers (NACL) annual food drive will take place on Saturday, May 9. United Food Operation (UFO) will again assist the letter carriers with unloading food at the downtown Charleston postal center.
UFO needs volunteers to help at the downtown post office from 1:00 PM until around 6:00 PM.
NACL uses United Food Operation to distribute the donated food to food pantries around the Kanawha Valley. UFO will truck the donated food from the Charleston post office to its distribution center at the Institute Industrial Park. At the warehouse the food will be divided into portions for each of the 12 participating food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties. The pantries will then pick up the food and use it to help with their missions.
Those wishing to volunteer should contact Nancy Grist at firstname.lastname@example.org or may call her at 304-342-2023 no later than May 1. Volunteers should plan to work at least a two-hour shift between 1:00 and 6:00 PM on May 9. Volunteers should be able to lift boxes weighing from 15 to 25 pounds. Food and soft drinks will be provided.
Volunteers will be working in the post office loading dock area, which is entered off Washington Street E., across the street from the Best Western Charleston Plaza Hotel.
Winter snow flurries couldn’t stop the flurry of activity as the final day of the 2015 winter food distribution program took place at United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO). The winter campaign ended March 28 with a group breakfast for volunteers and food pantry workers.
Volunteers sorted food and loaded trucks as usual. A large group showed up for the final day of the winter program.
“I want to thank everyone for their work this winter,” said Elaine Harris, UFO chairwoman. “I am constantly encouraged by all the people who contribute their time and money to our effort.”
Among this year’s contributions, Harris mentioned the work of the Communications Workers of America and Frontier Communications Corp., who really came through with big time support that helped the campaign end on a very positive note.
The program distributed packaged food to 12 independent food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties for 12 weeks of the winter season. This is the time of year during which food pantries experience increased need as people’s heating bills peak, leaving less in the family budget for food purchases.
UFO is an all-volunteer operation. It pays no salaries or contracted employees. It operates from donated warehouse space provided by Bayer CropScience at the Institute Industrial Park. All the funds individuals donate to the organization go to purchase and distribute food.
Noble Pickens: a volunteer supreme
The organization honored Noble Pickens for his many years of volunteer service to the group. Noble has long served as the warehouse coordinator, managing both food purchases and distributions for the program. United Food Operation could not be successful it it weren’t for folks like Noble who have spent countless hours through the years working to help those less fortunate. UFO is so indebted to him and other long-term volunteers who make the group go.
The next organization activity will be assisting with the Letter Carriers Food Drive in May. Letter carriers in the Charleston, WV, region use UFO to distribute the donated food to local food pantries.
As UFO closes the door on another winter food distribution season, plans are already being made for next year. Volunteers are always needed for fundraising and food collection activities. For information call Elaine Harris at (304) 342-2023.
On January 9, United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) began its 33rd season of supplying food to 12 community food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties of West Virginia.
UFO Chairwoman Elaine Harris announced the start of the group’s winter food drive at the kickoff event. This year’s food drive is dedicated in honor of Sylvia Mae Jones, who was formerly a receptionist at Bayer CropScience and a long-time supporter of UFO.
The meeting took place at Charleston’s Mountain Mission, which is one of the food pantries that benefits from the UFO program. Fund raising activity heated up fast as several donations were received from area work systems. Bayer Corp., ICL Group, and Dupont all stepped up to provide significant support for this year’s campaign.
United Food Operation depends on the caring and generosity of workers and companies around the Kanawha Valley to provide the funds needed to fight hunger in the region. UFO is an all volunteer operation, with no salaries, and operates out of donated warehouse space at Institute, WV.
Because UFO operates with almost no overhead, all the funds it raises in the annual food drive can go toward purchasing food, which it then supplies to the community food pantries free of charge.
Each Saturday from January through March, food pantry vehicles arrive at the UFO warehouse located in the Institute Industrial Park, to pick up a free load of packaged foods. This food is a big help to the pantries that are often strapped to meet the large need they find in their communities.
United Food Operation receives support from a variety of employers and individuals around Kanawha and Putnam counties. Elaine Harris emphasized that more support is needed this season in order for the group to meets its goals. Business or individuals wishing to help can contact Harris at 304-342-2023.
Many ideas were contributed as United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) held its organization meeting for the 2015 winter food distribution season. With the treasurer’s report showing the group will begin the 2015 program season with about $8,000 less than last year, much of the discussion centered on fundraising.
“We understand money is tight, but still there are those who need our help,” said Elaine Harris, UFO chairperson as she expressed the group’s commitment to find more resources.
The organization will conduct its 33rd annual food distribution program from January 9 to March 28, 2015. The program helps 12 local food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties get through the tough winter months.
It was determined that UFO needs to raise an additional $36,000 between now and the end of March if it is to maintain the same level of support it provided food pantries last year.
Each year, United Food Operation program provides additional food to the pantries during a 12-week winter-to-spring period — a time during which many families struggle with high heating bills that cut into their food budgets. UFO provides this support to the pantries at no cost to them.
The 2015 program will again operate out of space donated by Bayer CropScience at the Institute Industrial Park.
“We really appreciate Bayer’s providing us warehouse distribution space for the upcoming year,” Harris said. “They have been so generous through the years. I don’t know where we’d be without them.”
The 2015 distribution center will be located next door to the building that has been used the past several years. The former distribution center building is scheduled for demolition as the industrial park continues to experience changes and redevelopment.
Food pantry representatives at the meeting included those from Five Loaves–Two Fish, Poca; Nitro Community Services; EnAct, Inc, which operates in Clendenin, Montgomery and Chesapeake; Christian Community Cupboard, Hurricane; Covenant House, Charleston; Mountain Mission, Charleston; Sissonville Community Food Pantry; The Salvation Army, Charleston; and St. Albans Community Food Pantry. Representatives from Heart and Hand of South Charleston were unable to attend the meeting but will also participate again this winter.
United Food Operation, Inc. is a total volunteer operation with no paid staff and operates out of donated warehouse and office space. All donations it receives from the public go to purchase food.
Around the region, the annual Letter Carriers food drive on May 10 netted over 50,000 pounds of donated food that will be distributed to West Virginia food pantries.
At the main post office in Charleston dozens of United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) volunteers turned out to unload food from postal trucks and move it to the waiting UFO tractor trailer. A rainy day did not dampen the spirits of the volunteers nor of the members of the National Association Letter Carriers (NALC) Local 531, as approximately 21,000 pounds of food donated by postal patrons was received and reloaded at this site.
It takes a lot of volunteers to pull off a day like this and Charleston area organizations were very generous. Those offering volunteers included the Communication Workers of America, Local 2001; American Federation of Teachers, Putnam County Local 4639; Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, Charleston Chapter; National Association of Letter Carriers, Local 531; Charleston Professional Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 317; Heart and Hand of South Charleston; International Association of Machinists, Local 656; International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 175; International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 132; United Food Operation, Inc.; WV AFL-CIO; and the WV Governor’s Office.
With the day having been proclaimed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin as Letter Carriers Food Drive Day, the large haul of donated food will be spread among pantries around south central and western West Virginia. The 21,000 pounds of food given to United Food Operation will be shared with the 13 pantries it supports in Kanawha and Putnam counties. This food will be an immediate help to those in need in the Kanawha Valley.
** Click on the photos to view enlargements of our volunteers **
Details of the day
Postal delivery trucks arrive at the post office at the end of their day bringing back the donated food they have collected from postal patrons.
The donated food is loaded into large dump bins by United Food Operation volunteers.
Once these dump bins are filled they are moved over to the weighing area.
Each bin is placed on the scale and weighed.
Full bins typically weigh in the area of 800-900 pounds.
Bins are then loaded into the UFO trailer and hauled to the UFO warehouse in Institute.
This tractor and trailer was provided, at no cost to United Food Operation, by Yellow Freight. This is the kind of contribution that allows UFO to put all the funds it raises toward buying food. We thank Yellow Freight and all the others who made this successful day possible.
UFO will now distribute all the food donated from the Letter Carriers drive to its participating local food pantries . With the completion of this project, 2014 UFO distributions season will come to a close. Over the summer and fall months UFO will raise the funds needed to kick off its Winter 2015 program, which begins in January.
For its contribution to fighting hunger in the Kanawha Valley, Charleston radio station WQBE-FM was honored by United Food Operation on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.
Elaine Harris, chair of U.F.O., presented a plaque to WQBE radio personalities Jeff Jeffries and Al Woody for their long term commitment to and support of the United Food Operation that puts food on the shelves of 13 food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
Harris thanked Jeffries and Woody for all they do, and it is a lot. Jeffries and Woody routinely encourage public support for food charities in their regular broadcasts and, for the past three years, have provided a live remote broadcast for United Food Operation events. Their efforts have assisted U.F.O. in raising thousands of dollars used to purchase food that is then provided free-of-charge to 13 food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties of West Virginia.
WQBE is a community-spirited station owned and operated by Bristol Broadcasting Company, Inc. It broadcasts its country music format at 97.5 on the FM dial.
Winter weather has hit the Kanawha Valley with a vengeance, which means it surely must be time again for United Food Operation (UFO) to get down to business. Accordingly, the Charleston-based all-volunteer organization will kick off its 32nd annual food distribution program on January 24 and run it through April 12 this year.
Elaine Harris, who has served as the program chair since its inception in 1981, said UFO will work out of the same distribution center at the Bayer Crop Science facility in Institute that it has been using for several years.
“Donations are down,” she said. “Cupboards are bare. We need sponsors to help bring in food. It’s tax-deductible.”
Numerous area employers support the program but more are needed, Harris said. She explained that, unlike many other food banks, UFO does not charge the pantries for the food it provides them.
“They have enough issues finding the resources to keep operating,” she said. “We just want to help them get over the winter hump.”
Pantry leaders say they are hard pressed in the cold weather season to keep up with the increased demand for their services. Demand is higher in winter months for a number of reasons but the primary one is higher utility bills for heating leave less in the famlly budget for food.
At the Institute distribution center, UFO volunteers will collect, receive, and sort food on Fridays and distribute it to pantries on Saturday mornings during the 10-week period. Thirteen food pantries in Putnam and Kanawha counties participate in the UFO program.
Participating food pantries for 2014 are:
Christian Community Cupboard in Hurricane; EnAct, Inc. in Chesapeake, Montgomery, and Clendenin; Covenant House of Charleston; Heart and Hand Community Service Center in South Charleston; Nitro Community Services; Pocatalico/Sissonville Community Food Pantry; St. Albans Community Food Pantry; Mountain Mission in Charleston; Salvation Army in Charleston; and Five Loaves/Two Fishes in Poca.
A teleconference call with UFO officers and volunteer leaders will be held Wednesday, January 15, 2014 8:00 AM to discuss plans for the UFO kick off and subsequent pantry distributions for this year.
For more information about how you might help or get involved as a volunteer, call Elaine Harris at 304-342-2023.