Faces of Oregon County Food Pantry of Thayer

Thursday, November 14, 2019
Volunteers visit Oregon County Pantry in Thayer to store food during the monthly delivery before handout day.
Renee Janes

Without volunteers, the Oregon County Food Pantry in Thayer would more than likely be nonexistent. This caring group of individuals take the time to make sure they help ease food insecurity in the area. The South Missourian News visited with the approximately 10 volunteers as they waited for the Ozark Harvest truck to deliver food and got to know the story as to what inspires some to take the time to help every month. While visiting with the group, many of the volunteers referred to the group as a family.

At 92-years-young, Bob Miller is the oldest volunteer at the Oregon County Food Pantry in Thayer. Miller is also one of the three percent remaining of World War II veterans. He served for 17 months in the United States Navy, which he signed up to join four days before turning 18. He recalled being at Union Station in Kansas City one day before his birthday on March 12. “When I was in bootcamp, Germany surrendered and President Roosevelt passed away,” said Miller.

His wife passed away 16 years ago and to get out of the house, he decided to start volunteering and has been for 16 years. Miller stated as he’s able, he will continue to volunteer.

Warren Dolphus has been volunteering for approximately five years. He began helping at Mammoth Spring Food Pantry when someone he went to church with encouraged him to get involved. He stated he was raised helping people and will continue to do so as long as possible. Referring to Miller, he said, “He’s 92 and if I can make it that far, for God’s sake, I want to be here.”

“I enjoy it. It’s rewarding and it’s a way to give back to the community,” said Dolphus. He does not have any living family in the area but has family at the pantry and church. This even pours over into those who receive the food. For instance, if someone who is regularly there every month isn’t, they take the time to make sure they are okay.

He discussed how circumstances affect people such as losing their jobs, between jobs, illness, disability, etc.

Master’s Boys Ranch purchased the old Thayer Elementary building, which included the pantry building and decided to have them stay. Now some of the boys from the ranch help unload the food truck every month.

The pantry also assists when churches call to help individuals other than on handout day.

Judy Bowers has volunteered for 13 years. Bowers explained she is a recipient of commodities and realized the pantry need help. She inquired to a friend about volunteering and started the next month. “I love it…I like to help people and visit with the people. I just enjoy being here. I look forward to it every month…It’s a good group. It’s just like family,” said Bowers.

Lavon Callahan has been volunteering for 15 years. He also volunteers at and helps run Mammoth Spring Food Pantry with Jennifer Smith, which he has helped with since it opened.

When asked what inspired him to volunteer, Callahan emotionally responded, “When I found God.”

Callahan is also a disaster relief volunteer, which he started around 2002. Disasters he has assisted with include Hurricane Sandy in New York, as well as hurricanes and floods in Louisiana, Texas and last year when a hurricane hit in Florida. He assists with recovery and most anything else he is able.

It was only Sandy Huckstep’s second time helping with the pantry, but she realized how great the need is on handout day. “There were so many people that came through, it was unbelievable. There is a huge need for it in our area,” said Huckstep.

Bill Psler has volunteered for approximately five years and became involved when someone at church suggested he do so.

“We’re kind of like a family,” said Beverly Harris, who along with husband, Larry, have served as co-directors of the pantry for seven years. They order all the food and make sure things in the facility are running properly and stay clean.

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