The way Heather and Glenn Lamp look at life is, you can either whine or you can make it better.
Last September, the couple were sitting at their dinner table discussing how the economic downturn was cutting into their businesses. She's in real estate and he's an artist and graphics designer.
“We had both gone from a six-figure income to a weekly grocery budget of $75 in an envelope,” said Heather Lamp, 38.
The more they talked about their personal financial woes, the more they realized there were people much worse off.
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They decided that night they needed to do something to help others.
“I mean, everyone is hurting, but at least we're able to pay our bills and live in a nice home,” she said.
The couple decided to start a food pantry to help provide for less fortunate families.
They organized a private, nonprofit organization – Bag of Blessings & Thanksgiving. They have set up canned goods drop-offs at several local businesses. They have targeted a community in southern York County that has homes without indoor plumbing – the Blackmon Road community.
“It was an eye-opening experience for Heather and me to see Third World poverty so close to home,” said Glenn Lamp, 41, who spent a recent Saturday volunteering in the impoverished neighborhood. “And when you see that level of suffering, it really makes you count your own blessings. And you feel challenged to dig down a little deeper and see if there's something you can do to help.”
The Lamps contacted A Place for Hope, a community resource center for Blackmon Road that provides after-school programming and adult education, and serves as an advocacy group for the residents.
“This economy is hurting most everyone but particularly those that were just barely making it to begin with,” said Karen McKernan, executive director of A Place for Hope.
“Just recently we had a family of five where the mom lost her manufacturing job and they were evicted from their home and came back to Blackmon Road to move in with her 90-year-old grandmother. … We applaud people like the Lamps who are willing to get involved and help.”
After the Lamps established their group as a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization, they started contacting local businesses and individuals to drop off canned goods and donate non-perishable foods to their pantry.
On Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving, the couple will help bus 60 residents to York for a meal provided by the Olive Garden restaurant. On that same night, Bag of Blessings & Thanksgiving volunteers will give them brown paper bags of food for Thanksgiving Day.
Heather Lamp said that establishing the food pantry has been a little overwhelming. But everyone she has asked for help has done so.
“I know it's a cliche about being better to give than to receive, but it really is,” she said. “I wake up and I get excited about doing some good for people who really need it. And I think what the downturn in the economy has taught us is there is never a bad time to give.”
Her husband added: “Food is a funny thing; the need is always there for something to eat. And food pulls people together and can hold families and communities together in tough times.”