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Woman devotes three decades to Williamsport Food Bank

Mary Anna Kline retired Dec. 31

February 27, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Mary Anna Kline retired Dec. 31, 2011, after 30 years at the Williamsport Food Bank.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — People might not know her name, but Mary Anna Kline doesn’t mind being called the “Food Bank Lady” when people stop to thank her in public.

Kline has been a fixture at the Williamsport Food Bank for 30 years, almost since its inception. That’s 10 years longer than she’s been married to her husband, Tom Kline.

Mary Anna Kline, 62, finally “retired” as director of the food bank, a volunteer position, a move she’d considered each year for a while.

“Every year, I’d think I was going to quit. I was getting tired, but I kept at it,” Kline said.

This time it was for real, with Kline’s last day at the food bank being Dec. 31, 2011.

“I decided to take time off for family,” said Kline, who has two sons, one stepdaughter, two grandsons, six stepgrandchildren, one adopted grandson and two stepgreat-granddaughters.

A retirement dinner was held in her honor Feb. 1.

As certain as she was that it was time to pass the torch, Kline said she drives by the food bank daily and can’t help but feel a pang.

“I miss it,” she said.

Kline started volunteering in the early 1980s, helping with the distribution of government-surplus cheese and butter. 

When the food bank director stepped down several years later, Kline was asked to take over the volunteer position and she agreed. She said the director makes sure the shelves are stocked, the bills are paid and volunteers are available to work.

At the time, she was working full time at the Railroad Junction restaurant, where she worked for 11 years. Kline also provided foster care for 53 children during an 18-year period, which ended in March 2011 when she got sick.

Kline’s illness prompted her to take a break from the food bank, but she returned in time to help with the Christmas program she started more than 20 years ago.

Businesses, individuals, churches, and the Lions and Improved Order of Red Men clubs in Williamsport help provide gifts, food baskets and gift cards that are distributed to families in need.

“I’m not giving up the Christmas program,” Kline said.

Kline, whose father was a pastor at Calvary Temple in Williamsport, said she’s “always been around people who helped people.”

The Williamsport native said she volunteers “because of the love and compassion I’d seen as a child.”

Kline credits the committed volunteers and the Williamsport Ministerium — the organized faith community in Williamsport — with the success of the food bank’s ministry.

The Harvest Hoedown was started by the ministerium as an annual fundraising effort for the food bank. Kline said she has met people from other churches who have become her friends through working together on this effort.

“We probably have some of the most wonderful volunteers I’ve ever worked with in my life,” she said.

Kline credits her husband for supporting her work.

“He’s been very supportive. Many nights, after 12 to 14 hours of work, he would help unload food in snow, sleet and rain,” Kline said.

For more information about volunteering with the Williamsport Food Bank, call 301-223-7260.

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