Bismarck neighborhood makes annual donation to Bismarck Emergency Food Pantry

Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 1:07 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Family traditions are an important part of our holiday celebrations. Whether that’s trick-or-treating with cousins or going to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, there’s probably something special attached to the holidays for us all.

One Bismack family’s Halloween tradition is catching on and we think that’s good news.

Twice a week, volunteers at the Bismarck Emergency Food Pantry are busy filling boxes with food for families in need. In October, they helped 851 people in 284 households. In all, volunteers boxed up nearly 18,000 pounds of food last month. They’re prepared to help even more families this month.

“I would say that our numbers are close to doubling right now,” said Pat Jergensen, co-chair of the Bismarck Emergency Food Pantry.

All the food they give away is donated, and often their shelves are empty. But every Halloween, there’s a big donation they’ve come to rely on.

It starts in a Bismarck neighborhood. For the past 18 years, the Cleary family has been trick-or-treating for food.

“When we moved back in 2005, we decided to make it a family event,” explained Rich Cleary.

They put out a flyer, asking neighbors to leave donated food outside. Then, the Cleary kids pick it up and bring it here to the food pantry.

The problem this year: all the Cleary kids have gone off to college.

Enter Evan Pena.

“I’m kind of the last one in the neighborhood that hasn’t gone to college,” said Pena, a senior at Century High School who lives in the neighborhood. “I was just kind of the next option.”

“He really did a good job of just kind of taking control of doing it,” added Cleary.

The Cleary’s son, Anthony, and his girlfriend came home from college to help out, and together, they collected three cartloads of food to donate.

“It’s really generous to see a small amount of people giving up this much food,” said Pena.

“It’s such a gift that they think of us every year and they’ve been doing it for so long,” added Jergensen.

It’s a tradition that helps stock the shelves, feed those in need and gives this neighborhood a purpose and a lesson in the importance of helping others.

Pena is a senior this year and will be off to college next fall, so the Clearys are hoping to get some younger neighborhood kids to keep the food drive tradition going.