All posts by Charles Bockway

Pantry reps see greater need coming in Winter 2017

Food pantry representatives who participate in United Food Operation (UFO) gathered recently at Dow’s Institute plant to plan this winter’s assault on hunger.  The consensus is they are seeing lots of new faces at their pantries this year, so they need to double down to get through the winter. Continue reading Pantry reps see greater need coming in Winter 2017

Breakfast date set for April 2

The annual United Food Operation volunteer appreciation breakfast  is set for Saturday, April 2 at 8:30 AM. The breakfast will be served at the United Food Operation headquarters in Institute, WV.

UFO breakfast
Breakfast is served

A traditional West Virginia menu of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, jellies, coffee, juice, and milk will be served. All UFO and food pantry volunteers are invited to attend free of charge. Those interested should RSVP to Nancy Grist at or 304-342-2023 by Monday, March 28.

Following breakfast, a short organizational meeting will be held, during which volunteers will be recognized. All food UFO & pantry staff, volunteers, and board members are invited.

At the end of the meeting, participating pantries will pick up their loads of food as usual. The event will wrap up the 2016 UFO winter food distribution program.

The next UFO activity will be the National Association of Letter Carriers annual food drive on Saturday, May 14. Volunteers are needed.

Open house held, donations received

Community members got a first look at the new headquarters of United Food Operation (UFO)  Saturday during an open house in Institute.

United Food Operation recognizes contributors and volunteers
The Open House included a formal program to recognize major contributors and volunteers.

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.

Connie Stewart, center, and Cliff Means present a check for $20,000 dollars from Bayer CropScience to support United Food Operation programs. Receiving the check is UFO Chairperson Elaine Harris.
Connie Stewart, center, and Cliff Means present a check for $20,000  from Bayer CropScience to support United Food Operation programs. Receiving the check is UFO Chairperson Elaine Harris.

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

Andy Altman, center, explains Dow Chemical Company's support for United Food Operation by providing the building, including all maintenance and utilities.
Andy Altman, center, explains Dow Chemical Company’s support for United Food Operation by providing the building, including all maintenance and utilities. Left to right are Joe Davenport, a contract employee at Dow and UFO board member; Altman; and UFO Chairperson Elaine Harris.

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.

United Food Operation headquarters and distribution center at the Institute Industrial Park.
The new United Food Operation headquarters and food distribution center at the Institute Industrial Park. Leaders say it’s the best space the group has ever had.

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.

Dunbar Mayor Terry Greenly (center) expresses his support for the work of United Food Operation to UFO's Elaine Harris. With Greenly is Dunbar Councilman Steve Arnott.
Dunbar Mayor Terry Greenlee (center) expresses his support for the work of United Food Operation to UFO’s Elaine Harris. With Greenlee is Dunbar Councilman Steve Arnott.

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.

The contributions of Frontier Communication are recognized by UFO's Elaine Harris. On left is XXX ZZZZZZ of Frontier's West Virginia operations.
The contributions of Frontier Communications are recognized by UFO . At left is Cheryl Black of Frontier’s West Virginia operations with Elaine Harris.

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

This year's food drive is dedicated to Noble Pickens. Following his retirement from industry, this Dunbar resident worked tirelessly for UFO, helping run things at the warehouse.
This year’s food drive is dedicated to Noble Pickens. Following his retirement from industry, this Dunbar resident worked tirelessly for UFO, helping run warehouse operations.

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

Volunteers from St. Albans Food Pantry
Volunteers from St. Albans Community Food Pantry

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.

Volunteers from SGS Petroleum Services, Institute
Volunteers from SGS Petroleum Services, Institute, with the WQBE rabbit.

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.

United Food Operation board members
United Food Operation board members line up for the record.

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.


First Distribution-Saturday of 2016 for United Food Operation

The first distribution-Saturday of the 2016 season went like clockwork at United Food Operation’s new warehouse facility. Food distributions will continue over the next 12 weeks.

United Food Operation Jan-9-2016 - 1

It was still foggy at 8:00 A.M. when UFO volunteers began receiving the pantry vehicles at the organization’s new warehouse and headquarters at Institute Industrial Park. Continue reading First Distribution-Saturday of 2016 for United Food Operation

United Food Operation works out of new distribution center

Jan8-2016 - 1The United Food Operation, Inc. 2016 food distribution season has officially begun. This morning at 8:00 A.M., volunteers from the Nitro Food Pantry joined UFO volunteer staff at the program’s new facility to sort food destined for area food pantries. Continue reading United Food Operation works out of new distribution center

2016 program dates and open house set

The 2016 United Food Operation, Inc. winter food distribution program will begin on January 8 and conclude on April 2 at a new distribution warehouse facility in Institute, WV.

Dow Chemical Company has donated a new and improved warehouse space for UFO to use at the Institute Industrial Park — in a part of the park that Dow recently purchased from Bayer CropScience. Over the past few months the facility, which is located across Route 25 from the Institute Post Office, was extensively renovated by Bayer Crop Science to prepare it for UFO’s use.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with our new  space,” said Elaine Harris, UFO chair person  “Our thanks go out to Bayer and Dow for their generous donations. This means so much to us.”

The building has a conference room and office in addition to ample food storage and distribution space. The renovations included fence line modifications to allow for a separate entrance off Route 25, minor reconstruction, electrical modifications, painting, and the installation of new tile and ceiling for a conference room area. Also included is the donation of conference room furniture, chairs, refrigerator and microwave for the conference room area. [Link to directions and map]

To recognize Bayer CropScience and Dow for their donations and to familiarize the community with the new space, UFO will hold an open house and fundraiser there on Saturday, January 16 from 10:00 A.M. until noon.

“For many years we have relied on many of the plants and companies here in the Kanawha Valley that have now downsized,” said Elaine Harris. “Therefore, in order for us to survive and to continue to supply food to the pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties, we have to solicit new partners.”

The 2016 winter program will mark the 34th year of UFO food distributions. During the annual program period, the group provides weekly distributions of much-needed foodstuffs—free-of-charge—to 12 independent food pantries located throughout Kanawha and Putnam counties.

For more information on UFO volunteer opportunities or the upcoming open house, call 304-342-2023  (8:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday–Friday).

Organization meeting set

United Food Operation, Inc. will hold the organizational meeting for its 2016 campaign on Thursday, December 10. The meeting will be hosted by Dow Chemical Company at its Institute, WV facility.

At the meeting, the dates for the 2106 Winter Food Distribution Program will be announced. UFO will also disclose the new location of its food distribution center.

The group had to move from its former space following the repurposing of the building in which it was located after Bayer CropScience sold the property earlier this year. The UFO board expressed their gratitude to Bayer for its generous support over the past decade. UFO is thankful to have had the use of the BayerCropScience warehouse space for those many years.

As part of the meeting agenda, representatives of the participating food pantries will help UFO leaders assess the current need for food in the region. UFO anticipates a strong demand for food this winter given the region’s weak economy and high unemployment. Plans for fundraising will also be discussed.

For additional information on the meeting, please call 304-342-2023.

Letter Carriers Food Drive set for May 9

National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 531, will lead this years food drive in the Charleston WV region.

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.

Volunteers are needed to help out on May 9.
Volunteers are needed to help out on May 9 at the downtown postal center.

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.

Volunteer Contact

Those wishing to volunteer should contact Nancy Grist at 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 Food Drive Ends with a Flurry


snow flurry at United Food Operation
Typical for the this year’s distribution days, a snow flurry hits the United Food Operation warehouse early Saturday morning on the final day of the winter food distribution program.

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

Noble Pickens, sitting, receives gifts of  a fishing rod and reel in appreciation for his many years of volunteer service to UFO.

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.

2015 food drive, distributions under way

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.

Sylvia JonesUFO 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.

Bayer Corp donates to United Food Operation
Bayer Corp. makes a much needed donation to support United Food Operation’s 2015 food drive. Pictured are, from left, Cliff Means, UFO Vice Chairman and Bayer CropScience employee; UFO’s Elaine Harris; and Connie Stewart, QSHE Manager, Bayer CropScience, Institute plant.

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.

ICL Group donates to United Food Operation
Elaine Harris accepts a generous donation from ICL Group, (formerly known as Clearon) represented by John Kadlec, Director of Operations, South Charleston plant.

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.

Dupont donation to United Food Operation, Inc.
Dupont shows its unity with the UFO 2015 campaign by making a welcomed donation of funds. Pictured from left to right are Jim O’Connor, plant manager, Dupont Belle Works; Pam Valentine, UFO volunteer and DuPont retiree; and UFO’s Elaine Harris.

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.

Senator Chris Walters supports United Food Operation efforts.
State Senator Chris Walters (at right) attended the program kickoff to show his support for the efforts of food pantries to feed the hungry. Also pictured are UFO’s Joseph Davenport and Elaine Harris.

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.