Millcreek food pantry changing lives thanks to Elks grant

(Left)Food pantry at Milcreek High School (Right) Kylie Gower, 17, hugged by a fellow student. She told Elk officials that the pantry at the school had been a great benefit to her, St. George, Utah, March 6, 2014 | Photos by Natalie Barrett, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Grand Exalted Ruler of the Elks Millard Pickering came to Utah to see the efforts of a four-year grant being put to work in Millcreek High School on Thursday. Millard Pickering toured the pantry to see food and other necessities it stocks and also met four students whose lives have personally been changed.

Miguel Valle, 18, is a senior at Millcreek High and was very appreciative of the efforts by the Utah Food Bank and the Elks organization, including the local organization, The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks Lodge 1743, for the food pantry.

“My family, we don’t have a lot of money, so having this right here is just a major help for all of us,” Valle said.

Another senior also expressed her gratitude and shared that she is all caught up in school, expects to graduate and has a full-ride scholarship to Dixie State University waiting for her in the fall.

As the students shared their experiences, another student was unexpectedly asked to give a few comments as she passed through the school commons area. Kylie Gower, 17, had trouble expressing in words what she was feeling. She paused to gather herself before speaking.

“It’s helped me so much,” Gower said as tears fell. “I couldn’t tell you how much I appreciate you guys.”

Gower said she has seen her life change and has been able to stay in school because of the pantry and the nursery where her son, Rider, is tended.

Guiding the tour was Heidi Tasso, a counselor at Millcreek High, who showed Millard Pickering and his wife, Susanne, along with Utah Food Bank officials and Dixie Elks Lodge officers, the pantry with baked goods, state-of-the-art refrigerators, canned goods, clothing, deodorant, soap and other necessities the students may be in need of. Tasso said many students need all three meals from the pantry and they are able to supply the items that they need.

After touring the pantry, they saw the nursery with paintings on the walls, high chairs, toys, books and a newly fenced playground area and roof supplied by the Dixie Ladies of Elks and Elks organization.

As they entered the nursery, Gower proudly headed in, making sure that Millard Pickering would be able to meet her young son, Rider.

After the event, Secretary of the Dixie Elks Lodge, Betty Archambault, said she was incredibly pleased with the reactions of those who saw their efforts and all the help it has been to the community.

“The students who come there and have needs, those student can’t concentrate because they are preoccupied with hunger or if they are going to sleep on the floor tonight,” Archambault said.”By providing items like soap and clothes and food, we take that one item out of their minds so they can focus on school.”

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