Although the holidays and winter months bring to mind pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce, the Food Bank of Delaware’s need for donations and the help of volunteers isn’t just seasonal.

Although the holidays and winter months bring to mind pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce, the Food Bank of Delaware’s need for donations and the help of volunteers isn’t just seasonal.

That’s why Lincoln resident Sharyl Brooks knows how important it is to come in early and leave late during her days of volunteering at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Milford Branch.

“If there are no other volunteers, I’ll be here to help with the 400 meals that are prepared each morning,” Brooks said. “I hate to see people do without.”

For Brooks, it’s also a way of giving back for the help that she receives.

Brooks participates in Delaware’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, receiving food stamps and also cares for children participating in the Food Bank’s backpack program. She started volunteering at the Milford branch about a year and a half ago through the TANF Program and finds that it is a way to gain work skills, meet new people and give back to her community.

While she is gaining valuable hands-on experience working in the warehouse and the newly constructed volunteer room, it’s really her desire to help others that keeps her coming back.

“I try to help out everybody I can,” Brooks said. “The Food Bank is here for a purpose, and it’s here to help you, me and anyone who ever needs it.”

With an influx of holiday items on top of the ongoing need to feed the hungry, volunteers like Brooks are needed to fill in where the Food Bank’s paid staff can’t, from helping to stock shelves, coordinate volunteers and general cleaning responsibilities.

“We rely on volunteers for our basic functions,” said Milford Branch Volunteer Coordinator Matthew Brandi.

Brooks has no qualms doing the dirty work and whatever is needed by the staff at the Milford Branch. And while she feels that way year-round, Brooks said that with the holidays approaching, giving just feels natural, whether it’s time or canned goods.

“Seasons like this warm the heart,” she said. “November, December and January are crucial months for everybody. You may not get exactly what you want, but at least it’s something.”

Milford Branch Director Chad Robinson said that while donations may increase around the holidays, the need is ever present for more donations and volunteers.

“This is a very important time of year, but hunger is something that doesn’t go on vacation,” Robinson said. “I think people certainly want to make sure that people in need can provide a meal for themselves and their families in the holiday season, but we need to remember the same need that exists for Thanksgiving and Christmas, that need is around all year.”

In addition to year-round programming, the Food Bank is planning to make 2,500 meal boxes and frozen turkeys available to New Castle and Kent County non-profit organizations to distribute to the needy. Participating organizations must fill out an in-take form for participating households by Nov. 15 for approval. Organizations can then pick up turkeys and meal boxes on Nov. 22.

Items needed to fill the 2,500 Thanksgiving boxes include the following: Macaroni and cheese, canned or packets of gravy, pie crust, chocolate pudding mix, canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, seasoned stuffing mix, biscuit mix, instant mashed potatoes, canned vegetables (green beans, corn, yams and peas), canned fruits (pineapple and apple sauce), pancake mix and syrup, apple juice, shelf-stable milk (32 oz.), turkey roasting pans and frozen turkeys, all of which can be dropped off at the Newark or Milford warehouses.

For more information about the Food Bank of Delaware, to find out what items are needed most or to participate in the Thanksgiving drive, call (302) 424-3301.