On Thanksgiving Day, Empty Pantry Fund directors say they are thankful for the life of the late Paul Bales, the man who chaired the Blount County charity for more than five decades. Bales died in September, but his legacy of giving to the community he loved lives on through the Empty Pantry Fund.
Bales grew up in a time of economic hardship in the 1930s and 1940s, and he never forgot the small blessings that came his way. Small blessings, such as shirts made from flour sacks by the hands of his loving mother. One of these small shirts was a prized possession, kept in a place of honor at his home.
In 2011, Bales shared the story of this little shirt and the humble circumstances in which his family lived in those days at the end of the Great Depression. They made do with what they had and were thankful to have it.
Using the colorful material in which flour or meal was packaged was one way to stretch limited funds.
Tales from Bales, part 2
The following is an excerpt from a story that ran in The Daily Times on Nov. 24, 2011:
Bales explained that one shirt per year made from the flour sacks was all he usually had.
“Mother didn’t have a pattern to go by,” Bales said. “She’d empty the meal or the flour out of it, put one on my back and one on my front, and cut it out. That was a blessing that I did get that. Mother didn’t have any money at that time.”
On a Saturday, she instructed Bales to go to the mill, sit on the steps, and as people came by to purchase their supply of flour and meal, he was to wait until someone asked him what he was doing there. He was sitting there for several hours when a man finally asked the question.
“I said, ‘Mother told me to say I don’t have any money to buy flour or meal, and I need a shirt,’” Bales said. “He bought three sacks, so I had three shirts. That was nice. I had enough shirts to last the rest of the year.”
The material that had flowers on them was used for his sisters’ dresses, while the other sacks were used for the boys’ shirts.
“She washed my shirt every night so I would have something clean to wear to school the next day,” Bales said. “You never went dirty. That was a cardinal sin. Never do I ever remember being dirty. She took good care of us kids. I was always clean. Didn’t have much of anything to wear, but I was clean.”
Bales saw situations similar to this each year while delivering Empty Pantry Fund food baskets to needy Blount County citizens at Christmas. Those circumstances kept him working tirelessly to raise the funds necessary to provide a bit of respite for families over the holidays.
“I’ve seen people that didn’t have anything to wear,” Bales recalled in 2011. “I just hurt for people, I feel for people. A lot of them make it, but a lot of them don’t make it.”
The story Bales told in 2011 still touches EPF President Lon Fox today.
“After reading this rare childhood story from Paul, it is not difficult to understand why he had such a passion for the Empty Pantry Fund,” Fox said. “This passion inspired him to lead the Empty Pantry Fund, which has provided thousands of baskets to underprivileged families across Blount County. We all have the opportunity to help the less-fortunate by making a donation and/or volunteering to pack and deliver the food baskets.”
The Empty Pantry Fund will provide food baskets to more than 1,450 families this year, the most in the organization’s history. Volunteers will pack the foods on Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Tennessee Army National Guard Armory and will deliver them on Sunday, Dec. 15.
BALANCE FORWARD: $64,089.15
Donations to date include:
Linda and Francis Turmo, $50
Debra and Larry Poston, $25
Andrew Pickens, $50
Raleigh and Judy Dixon, $200
In honor of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Shoemaker, $500
In memory of my late wife, Gladys Bean; in honor of my grandchildren Kelsey Riggs, Charles Hill 3rd, Kaitlyn Hill, Jazlyn Brown, Jaxon Brown, and Jazlynn Brown; and in honor of my great-granddaughter Aria Jane Riggs, by Bob Bean, $100
In memory of Ray Henderson, $200
Employees of Blount County Register of Deeds Office, $410
In memory of Cheryl Purkey, $100
In memory of Margaret and French Law and Rosa and F.B. Ladd, $50
In memory of Helen “Fern” Heaton, $50
In memory of Paul Bales by John and Patti Sanson, $50
In memory of Maryann, $150
In memory of Clifton Thomas by Margaret Ann Thomas, $200
Robert and Jocelyn Shelton, $100
In memory of my parents by Susan Phillips, $50
Francis and Norma Garner, $500
In memory of Robert Clevinger, $100
In memory of Joe Rorex Jr. by Myrtle Rorex, $100
Janet and Bennie McCardel, $100
In memory of Annie and Hank Clinton, Phyllis Clark and Alisha Gibson, $50
In memory of Curtis Lowe by The Daily Times, $50
In memory of Paul Bales by Tommy and Carol Hunt, $250
Gary and Janice Wade, $100
Network for Good (donation via Facebook), $10
Larry and Ramona Armstrong, $100
Fred and Linda Isbill, $50
In memory of Betty J. Whitehead, $50
In memory of Wade and Mary McDonald, $25
In memory of Andy and Ann Whitehead, $25
In memory of Lucas and David Caldwell, $100
In memory of Tristen Keller, $25
In loving memory of my grandmother Betty Koella and Kathryn Myers by Carl Koella III, $100
In memory of Donald Brackins, Velma Campbell and Nancy Colquitt by Susan and Bob Hirchè, $150
Betty King, $10
Dale and Lucy Johnston, $500
Fred and Lorene Sunderland, $50
In memory of Paul Bales by Gerald and Jean Stephens, $50
In memory of Clayton and Samie Whitehead by Dan and Anne Blevens, $100
In memory of Sam and Maxie Blevens by Dan and Anne Blevens, $100
In memory of Janet Waters by Dan and Anne Blevens, $25
In honor of our grandchildren, $100
Linda and Timothy Richards, $40
In memory of my husband and family members, $100