Penny Velk says as long as she can remember, the Havre Food Bank has been operating on a shoestring.
This time of the year is the worst. The number of people coming through the doors increase, and donations are down.
Eventually people get into the giving mode as the holiday season approaches, she said
But this year, things are in a crisis stage, she said.
The food bank is $20,000 in debt, there aren't enough volunteers and the shelves are getting bare.
The Montana Legislature has eliminated funding for food, and the number of people coming through the doors has increased as the economy continues to sour.
In August, 2,213 people came through the doors, she said. A total of 212 boxes of food were handed out.
That's more than double the amount of an average month five years ago, she said.
Velk's hours have been cut. She once was fulltime, but now works 30 hours a week. One option the District IV Human Resources Development Council board will consider at its Thursday night meeting, Velk said, is to cut back on her hours more and reduce the hours the food bank's doors are open.
She doesn't know how she will continue to do the same amount of work in fewer hours.
She fears for the long-range operation of the food bank.
And she knows some clients will have a harder time making it to the food bank if it operates on fewer hours.
Many people, she said, work full-time jobs and already have a hard time making it in.
Velk said that over the years, the food bank has made progress in improving services and making facilities better. New equipment has been added.
"But now I feel like I'm sticking my finger in the dike," she said.
She said she is now asking the public for donations to keep the food bank afloat.
"We need money," she said. "We can't provide the services without power."
Food donations would also be welcome, she said.
And volunteers are needed.
"You don't need to volunteer for a full day," she said. "Any amount of time would be good."
She said the work of the food bank is often misunderstood.
Most of the clients are hard-working people, and the food bank helps them get through tough times.
"Some people think they are just bums," she said.
However, most clients are working, but can't make ends meet.
"One woman was in the other day and told me 'This is the only time I will be here,'" Velk recalled.
Velk hopes that's the case, but fears the woman may once again have to be in for help.
She asked anyone interested to give her a call at the food bank at 265-2007.