Christmas 'angel' collects food for families

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Nov 15, 2013
Photo by: Jessi Stone Pam Wilson of Waynesville sorts the food that has been donated through her Facebook page.

Pam Wilson of Waynesville was just trying to unclutter her closets at home and now she is up to her elbows in food, clothing and other donated items that will help her feed hungry Haywood families.

Wilson, a server at Clyde’s Restaurant for 10 years, has taken her yard sale hobby and turned it into a way to collect food for families. She began several weeks ago bidding off her own items through Facebook in exchange for nonperishable food items.

When the idea took off, she set up her own Facebook page to continue the efforts. The group, Bid with Food to Stamp Out Hunger, now has more than 300 members and Wilson is overwhelmed with the response she’s gotten from the community.

“I wanted it to be a community thing. I wanted everyone involved but I didn’t know it would do this – it’s been so amazing,” she said.

According to her estimates, she has collected more than 1,700 food items that she plans to distribute soon through food pantries, churches, schools and any other agency that might have a need.

Here is how it works. Wilson is posting items on her Facebook site that she and others have donated, including clothing, shoes, accessories, home décor, kitchen appliances and more. The bid may start out at one canned food item and others are asked to bid on the item they want. The person with the highest bid at the deadline receives the item.

Wilson’s friend Katrina Rogers said she and her 14-year-old son helped her sort the first load of donations at her home. She has also started making calls to schools to compile a list of people who need the food.

“She has helped us in the past and I told her I didn’t want things handed to me, but I wanted to help out,” she said. “I feel like she is an angel. She’s not gaining anything from it. She’s using her own gas and time on top of having a full-time job.”

She is now starting to specify what type of food items she wants now that she has an overflowing collection of canned goods. This week she is asking for beverages and breakfast items.

Wilson makes appointments each week at central locations in the county to exchange food for the auction items. Some items on the Facebook pages have been sold for 40 food items each.

Wilson said members of the site seemed willing to donate more food items than they would she were asking for money. But many of the items being donated for the auction are good finds for deal seekers. For example, Wilson said one man even donated a hand-carved wooden Santa Claus shadowbox to use as an auction item.

All the donated auction items and food collections are being kept at Wilson’s home and she is quickly running out of room. She is working as quickly as she can to take pictures of the donated items and put them up on Facebook. The effort has taken a lot of time and energy staying organized and keeping up with donations, but she doesn’t mind.

“The more donations the more we can feed people so I don’t mind spending every minute I’ve got to do this,” Wilson said. “So many people are not making it and its getting worse every day.”

As she gets ready for her first food distribution, she will need all the volunteers she can get to help. She is looking for a good location where she can set up the food and have eligible families come and fill up a box of food.

“That way people are taking what they know they will eat,” she said.

Wilson is also asking people to donate warm clothing, coats, hats, socks, heaters, blankets or anything else that can help people stay warm this winter.

Wilson’s giving heart has been contagious. She said a woman in Asheville was taking the idea and starting a similar exchange in her community.

Wilson’s mother in upstate New York was so impressed with her daughter’s idea that she shared it with her church congregation and now the church is willing to chip in and help.

Rogers hopes Wilson’s giving spirit will rub off on other individuals and businesses in the community who may want to donate turkeys or ham for a Thanksgiving distribution.

For people who want to help, Wilson said the best way to contact her is to join the Facebook group and contact her through there. Just search for "Bid with food to stamp out hunger"