WINCHESTER — For 34 years, the Highland Food Pantry has provided fresh produce, canned goods and packaged foods to hungry people in the community.

The pantry is open Tuesday mornings and evenings in the basement of Highland Memorial Presbyterian Church, 446 Highland Ave.

In 2017, the pantry served more than 6,100 families (or 19,416 individuals).

It takes a lot of food to meet the needs of the pantry’s clients. In 2017, the pantry received 232,321 pounds of food from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and more than 44 tons were donated by individuals and community groups. But the pantry must still purchase thousands of dollars of food each year to fill the gaps.

To help raise the needed funds, the pantry will hold its sixth annual Men on a Mission fundraiser on Saturday.

More than 30 volunteers will share their favorite tailgate recipes from 5 to 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 116 S. Loudoun St.

Tickets are $30, which gives the ticket-holder a taste of the different foods. “It’s a very fast-moving event,” said event chairwoman Vicki Laird, adding that the evening’s focus is on fun and fellowship.

Only 300 tickets will be sold. The $9,000 raised in ticket sales go directly to purchasing food for the pantry. A 50/50 raffle and tip jars set up beside each volunteer chef will add more money to the evening’s final total.

On a recent Tuesday morning, dozens of people lined up outside waiting for the food pantry to open.

While some volunteers bagged strawberries, carrots, and cucumbers, other volunteers gathered for a quick meeting before the doors opened.

“It’s pretty amazing what a generous community we live in,” pantry manager Jenny Callis told the volunteers as she recounted the various groups that had recently donated food.

About 75 regular volunteers commit their time to helping out their neighbors in need. School groups, churches, businesses and local farmers also help out.

Callis gave one last instruction to the volunteers before the doors opened that morning: “The most important thing we do is care about our friends and clients and let them know before leaving here that they are cared about and loved.”

If you’d like a ticket for Men on a Mission, call the First Presbyterian Church office at 540-662-3824.

The Highland Memorial Food Pantry is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and again from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the basement of Highland Memorial Church, 446 Highland Ave.

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