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Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber to honor local food pantries

The Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce, a partner of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber, has announced the 27th annual Nonprofit of the Year Award will be awarded to Parkland C.A.R.E.S. Food Pantry, Orefield, Lowhill Food Pantry, Lowhill, and the Northern Lehigh Food Bank, Emerald.

The event and award ceremony will be hosted 9:30 a.m. Sept. 19 at Ontelaunee Park pavilion, New Tripoli.

The morning brunch will be held in this historic park, as they honor the awardees that have impacted the past, present, and future of the Greater Northern Lehigh region.

The morning outdoor event will provide ample opportunity for mingling while social distancing.

Brunch will be catered by the coveted Curious Goods at The Bake Oven Inn, which sources its ingredients from local farmers and suppliers throughout the region.

The Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber will also have a basket raffle and 50-50 to benefit the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce Scholarship fund and local food pantries.

Kevin Schmidt, of Neffs National Bank and sponsor of the event, discussed the event.

“The Spirit Awards are so important to the community and gives us a chance to recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations for their contribution to the Greater Northern Lehigh area,” Schmidt said. “The GNLCC Events Committee and Liaisons always do a great job making it a fun and memorable event.

“The camaraderie and networking opportunities are important to Neffs, we never miss out.”

Jessica O’Donnell, executive vice president of Affiliated Chambers at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, also commented.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize the food banks and food pantries in our Greater Northern Lehigh area,” O’Donnell said. “This is another great example of how we are not just a Chamber of Commerce, but also a Chamber of Communities. The work and the services that these organizations provide to our area are critical to the overall well-being and health of our community. We are forever grateful for all those involved because all together, we are making a difference.”

Started in 2019, the Nonprofit of the Year Award is given to organizations within the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber footprint who continually invest in helping our neighbors and community partners through their efforts.

Past recipients include the Lion’s Clubs of the Greater Northern Lehigh region (Lehigh Township Lioness, Lehigh Township, Upper Lehigh, Slatedale-Ontelaunee and the Slatington Lions Club).

“This year, it was unanimously decided that The Chamber would like to recognize the food pantries within our footprint,” said Kylie Adams, manager of Affiliated Chambers.

“Each year, Parkland C.A.R.E.S. Food Pantry, Lowhill Food Pantry and the Northern Lehigh Food Bank service hundreds of families throughout our area, providing food and resources in times of need to our community. Not only that, they do so while maintaining a sense of dignity and respect that embraces our neighbors and friends when they need it most.”

Andy Gildner, chair of the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce and owner of Keystone Technology, LLC., discussed the food pantries’ efforts.

“We have countless organizations in our footprint who continue to serve our population on a daily basis,” Gildner, said. “Our food pantries are a crucial keystone in the foundation of our community, providing food and assistance to so many.”

Each food pantry has different programming that supports the needs of their area and each operates as a choice pantry, striving to provide a sense of control over food choice and limiting possible food waste.

Partnering with local Second Harvest Food Bank, as well as local churches, businesses, organizations, and individuals, the food pantries work hard to keep their shelves full and families fed.

“Many of us are just one paycheck, just one illness, just one job loss from needing the help of others,” said Peg Laxson of Lowhill Food Pantry, which serves the Northwestern Lehigh School District which covers Heidelberg, Lowhill, Lynn, and Weisenberg townships.

As a completely volunteer-run organization, Lowhill not only houses a food pantry but a “Blessing Shop,” which includes gently used clothing, shoes, toys, books, and household items; they also provide school supplies to students, as well as personalized Christmas presents and Easter baskets for their families.

“In less than a year’s time, Parkland C.A.R.E.S. has served 110 plus households, from individuals needing assistance to families and seniors,” Katrina Sundstrom, executive director said. “We aren’t going to solve the issue of hunger in our community, but we will diligently fight it as long as it exists.”

Parkland C.A.R.E.S. was founded in 2018 and serves the Parkland community; established with the mission to feed and serve every member of their community affected and suffering from hunger.

With over 9,400 students in the Parkland School Community, 27 percent experience some level of food insecurity; through their pantry and snack-pack program, Parkland C.A.R.E.S. aims to help those in need.

The Northern Lehigh Food Bank, Emerald, also being honored as a Nonprofit of the Year recipient, faces similar issues; serving the Northern Lehigh School District, its reach has a huge impact on our community.

“The Northern Lehigh Food Pantry is an integral lifeline to many individuals and families in our district and community,” said Matthew Link, superintendent for the Northern Lehigh School District. “We know that we have families in which food insecurity is a daily issue. When we have organizations like Northern Lehigh Food Pantry and their people ready to assist, it makes the stress and uncertainty placed on these families a little easier to bare. I am grateful that we have such a wonderful group in the community.”

Also being celebrated at the 27th annual Spirit Awards is David Altrichter with a Spirit Award and Eight Oaks Farm Distillery with a Business of the Year Award.

Attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods and donations for the food banks, which will be collected at the event and divided amongst the organizations, as well as cash for raffle tickets and 50-50.

One free raffle ticket will be awarded for each donation.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the food pantries, as well as benefiting the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fund.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit lehighvalleypacoc.wliinc16.com/events/-NEW-DATE-GNLCC-Spirit-Awards-837469/details.