The shelves of local food pantries are full today, in some cases overflowing with holiday donations.
But the folks who stock those charity cupboards in York and Chester counties know the grub won't last, and they're concerned about a shortfall in offerings now that the season of giving has passed.
"The donations do stop after Christmas," said Laura Walton, an emergency assistance specialist at Pilgrims' Inn in Rock Hill. "I see us maybe OK for a month. But if we don't get any donations in between now and the end of January, we're going to be bare again to the walls."
The situation at Pilgrims' Inn is the same at other local pantries: People give during the holidays, then stop.
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"They give generously, and then all of a sudden that season is gone," said John Williams, director of The Turning Point, a nonprofit ministry in Chester that offers clothing and food programs for needy people. "The generosity is still there. ... They just don't think about it. But there is a need after the holidays, after the spirit of giving is gone."
This year's situation also has been plagued by job layoffs that have left hundreds of York and Chester county people searching for work. Walton said the majority of the hungry folks who come to Pilgrims' Inn are displaced workers.
"How are we going to survive after Christmas?" she asked. "It's good to get the food at Christmastime. But the demand is definitely much greater than what we can meet right now. There are so many people that are out of work."
Across the area, the plight is the same.
"January and February are very light months for us," said Dona VanLear, operations manager at the Clover Area Assistance Center. "People forget to donate. They donate for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then they forget to donate until about Easter time."
January and February are usually the coldest months of the year, and needs tend to go up, said Cheryl Curtin, executive director of PATH, where through November and December between 35 and 40 families have been lining up at 9 a.m. to get food.
"People are inside more, so they have more need for heating and utility payments," she said.
A concern for the Fort Mill Care Center, which hands out more than 20,000 pounds of food each month, is that most of the food it receives in December has to last until the Postal Service food drive late in the spring.
"Right now, we're sitting pretty," said Jan Arnold, the pantry's chairperson. "But come April, I'll be holding my breath."
Local pantries need canned goods and nonperishables such as rice and beans. Basic household items also are needed, regardless of the time of year.
Products such as soap and dish-washing detergent can't be purchased with food stamps, so many needy people depend on charities to help them with these necessities, pantry leaders say.
For Tender Hearts Community Outreach volunteer Tanya Knight, the post-holiday message is simple:
"Don't stop after Christmas," Knight said. "Let the giving still be giving."