One morning a week, a Franklin man drives a large box truck to and from Indianapolis, bringing needed food donations to a local pantry.

Tim Clark has been a volunteer driver for the Interchurch Food Pantry for three years and knows that what he does is important to help local families in need.

But since the start of the year, the need for volunteers such as Clark has only grown.

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For the Interchuch Food Pantry, the county’s largest pantry, 60 percent of donations have to be picked up and brought back to the facility in Franklin. That means the pantry needs volunteers to go get and bring back those donations.

Currently, the pantry has three volunteer drivers, which isn’t enough when the truck needs to go out and get donations every day, pantry co-manager Carol Phipps said. And with one volunteer set to head south for the winter, that will leave the pantry with only two drivers, she said.

“We’re lower than we’ve ever been,” she said.

The pantry is now looking for more volunteer drivers who can help by driving the pantry’s box truck one day a week to pick up donations of food, bring them back to the pantry and help unload and stock them at the Franklin facility. Being able to drive a forklift is a huge plus, Phipps said.

Having only three drivers is putting pressure on those volunteers to fill the shifts that aren’t covered, and if a driver needs a day off, the pantry has no backup. That arrangement just isn’t sustainable, Phipps said.

Without enough drivers, the pantry wouldn’t be able to get the food donations they need to help families, and would either have to help fewer families or give them less food, she said.

This year, Interchurch Food Pantry is getting an average of 2,000 families visiting per month, and is expecting to serve 10 percent more than in 2016, she said. That breaks down to 80 to 100 families helped every day, she said.

In order to meet the growing need, the pantry is getting a record amount of donations, including from Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis and local grocery stores. The box truck the pantry got in 2014 is a big help, allowing the pantry to pick up those food donations. But the increase in donations also has grown the need for drivers, she said.

Volunteer drivers don’t have to have a commercial driver’s license, and don’t necessarily have to have truck driving experience, though having experience driving large equipment, such as on a farm operation or as a school bus driver or driving a recreational vehicle, is helpful, she said.

But they do need to be willing to learn and to get comfortable driving a large vehicle into Indianapolis on Interstate 65 or State Road 37, she said.

“Not everybody is cut out for it,” Phipps said.

For Clark, who retired from a career in finance and management, his experience with large vehicles is limited to driving equipment on his family’s dairy farm when he was younger, he said.

But when he first started volunteering at the pantry, he was stocking and helping families who came in. Then, he got to know one of the drivers and the two began riding together on trips to pick up donations, and then learned to drive himself. Being a driver is what he now prefers to do for his time as a volunteer, Clark said.

Every Tuesday, he drives the truck to Indianapolis, where he picks up 11 pallets of food, which can include frozen foods, produce and drinks, he said.

“You just never know what you’re going to get,” he said.

He brings the food back to the pantry and helps unload the donations and put them away, either in the pantry’s storage area, cooler or freezer, he said.

Clark calls the work fulfilling.

“It’s a day I am committed to doing something worthwhile,” he said.

“It’s good to have something as a retiree to not say, ‘OK, what am I going to do today.’”

At a glance

The Interchurch Food Pantry is looking for volunteer drivers to pick up donations in the pantry’s box truck. Here is how you can help:

Requirements: Have a valid driver’s license. A commercial drivers license is not necessary, but having some experience with driving larger vehicles, such as a bus, recreational vehicle or farm equipment, is helpful.

Other duties: Volunteers who can drive a forklift to help unload the donations from the truck are also needed.

What to know: This is a volunteer position, and officials are looking for people who can commit to one morning per week.

Who to contact: The Interchurch Food Pantry, 317-736-5090 or pantryjcmanager@gmail.com or or stop by 211 Commerce Drive, Franklin, between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.