In June 7 issue, Russell County News
By Derek Aaron
Russell County News EditorABOVE: Thrasher is helping pantry volunteers Lillie Ashbrook and Teresa Burns prepare food items for the next family that visits God’s Food Pantry. The pantry has eight volunteers and is open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon until 4 p.m. To contact the pantry, call 270-866-7992.
This week’s “Russell County Hero” has been a staple in community volunteer work for decades but may be best known as the director of God’s Food Pantry in Russell Springs.
Margaret Thrasher says she volunteers around 1,000 hours each year, has been the pantry’s director for six years. She said she’s been involved with the outreach service for more than 10 years.
“I’d hear reports of children in the county not having any food from Friday until Monday,” Thrasher said. “It was stories like that as to why I got involved.”
Jamestown was the initial location of the pantry but it has since it moved from there to Russell Springs in 1995.
“There was a group of people that were interested in helping folks that didn’t have any food here in Russell County,” she said. “So, they got together and organized God’s Food Pantry and had it incorporated.”
She said the group first met in Jamestown at the Russell County Jail’s basement, in an empty room.
“It didn’t take long before they outgrew that place and moved to this current location and built the new building,” she said.
God’s Food Pantry, which has an eight-member voluntary board, is located at 55 Dan St in Russell Springs. The board meets every six months to appropriate funds while doing other business-related work as well. Thrasher said the lot where the pantry now sits was donated by David and Linda Stephens.
Thrasher said her duties as director consisted of keeping up with all of the money that comes and goes as well as getting the volunteers into work.
“I’m always asking for volunteers to help out,” she said. “We have two volunteers come in on Monday and on Wednesday and sometimes Friday.”
The pantry is open only on those days from noon until 4 p.m. She said the eight volunteers also do most of the shopping for pantry items to be stocked.
“We also have milk, egg and bread vouchers so the cash helps pay for those at the grocery stores,” she said.
The pantry workers supply the vouchers out and they can be redeemed at either Kroger or Save-a-Lot, according to Thrasher.
The pantry is funded through church donations and through several different organizations within the school system, she said. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Curves and several of the chiropractic shops, among others, help fund the outreach.
“A lot of different individuals and businesses will send us money, periodically,” she said.
Thrasher said in recent times, she has witnessed more senior citizens and elderly using the pantry.
“Some of them have so much medication and there is a limited amount of money they receive and they just don’t have enough money for food,” she said.
She said the pantry also serves many transit people. “By the time they get moved in and get their electricity hooked up and the water hooked up they, a lot of times, don’t have money for food,” she said. Many times, someone in the community will refer the pantry to a transit for help.
One of the qualifications to obtain food from the pantry is that it must be an emergency situation where there is no food in the house and no money to buy food.
“Some of these people don’t have any family,” she said. Because of this, Thrasher likes to buy nutritional foods to stock the pantry’s shelves.
“What we buy is canned vegetables and fruits, cereal and many grain products,” she said The pantry also has pasta, soups and meats as well.
“We like to give people at least a three-day supply of breakfast, lunch and dinner items,” she said.
Thrasher said she and the volunteers find food on the building’s steps almost every week and with rising food and gasoline prices she said every little bit the pantry receives helps a tremendous amount.
She said she has even seen persons that had gotten food there before come back and donate food or money to the pantry as to share with someone else.
“They don’t have to leave their name, they do it because they love the Lord,” she said.
Last month, Thrasher said around 100 people obtained food or vouchers from the pantry. This past February, God’s Food Pantry started the “Backpack Program” through the school system with the help of the 4-H club and the extension officers Pam York and Christy Martin as well as Lou Ann Flanagan.
“That will supply about 250 backpacks of food (crackers, drinks, fruit cups, etc.) per week to students that are chosen by personnel in the school system,” she said.
The program continues through the summer programs as well. “We’ve already got enough money now to provide food for next school year,” she said. South Kentucky RECC recently donated $1,000 to the program, Thrasher said.
The Second Harvest of Kentucky organization, based in Elizabethtown, provide the food for the program, at a cost. The food is brought the first Thursday in the first full week of each month.
“We’re getting good results and positive feedback on that,” she said. To contact the pantry, call 270-866-7992.
God’s Food Pantry isn’t Thrasher’s only notable work as she volunteers with the Lake Cumberland Hospice, volunteer work at the Russell Springs United Methodist Church, a board member of the Russell Springs Downtown Revitalization Committee, the Twilight Extension Homemakers Club as well as district and county extension clubs.
She also was a founding member of the Russell County Arts Council in 1986 and is still active to this day.
She is also a member of the University of Kentucky Suvell Society and a UK Fellow.
For 35 years, Thrasher operated Margaret’s Pet Boarding and Grooming on Bluebird Drive in Russell Springs.
She retired from that just three years ago and sold the operation to Joyce Back and Bob Hawkins.
In 1972, her late husband, Dr. H.P. Thrasher and her saw the need to groom animals in the county.
She thanked William Creech for all his boarding efforts over the years.
Thrasher still owns the 44-table Lone Oak Flea Market off of Lakeway Drive in Russell Springs, a staple in that area since 1978.
She also worked third shift as a nurse at Fair Oaks Nursing Home for many years.
For someone so deeply involved in the goings-on of her community, the distinction ‘hero’ only begins to scratch the surface of just how much Margaret Thrasher means to Russell County.