As Buddy Cater rested his arms on the bed of a bright Ford pickup filled to the brim with groceries to feed area families, a red-and-white mustache couldn't help but frame the man's smile.

Cheerfully chatting with friends over the weekend as they pulled into the parking lot of St. Matthew's Catholic Church to drop off loads of bagged groceries, it was clear Cater's heart is big all over.

He loves his community and loves helping others just as much.

"Anytime we can give back to the community, we feel like we've done some good," said Cater, who is a member and trustee of the Gillette Knights of Columbus Council. "There are so many needs right now out there."

Because the Knights of Columbus is known for its service projects, it made sense to put a food drive together to do whatever they could to make a difference, he said.

The organization typically has a food drive around Easter. With COVID-19 closing church services for months, Cater thought a parking lot food drive over the course of two days would be a good way to continue the tradition.

It couldn't come at a better time for some.

Jenny Hartung, director of Salvation Army of Gillette and Campbell County, has been busy since COVID-19 began impacting so many local families. In April alone, she helped serve 2,823 people, roughly the same number she helps in an entire calendar year.

Although she believes the Salvation Army already has peaked in numbers, she is prepared to serve many more people for the rest of the year, up to 70% of her current operating level.

"Everybody needs food," Hartung said. 

Donations from the event went to St. Matthew's Parish Pantry and Salvation Army and to the Council of Community Services, where the drive moved to Thunder Basin Ford. Both days of donations over the weekend completely filled the truck bed of the Ford F-350 Thunder Basin Ford loaned to the Knights of Columbus for the drive.

"I'm always overwhelmed by the generosity of our community to aid those in need," said Nancy Anderson, St. Matthew's Catholic Church outreach director. "If people are in need, we try to serve them."

Anderson said the pantry has seen a growing number of folks needing not only food assistance, but help with rent and gasoline for their vehicles.

In addition to truckloads of food, including a single $500 donation for food Saturday, Cater said they also received several $100 donations, which were distributed to the various agencies involved.

Seeing the outpouring of kindness during such a difficult time for many proves to Cater why he loves living in Gillette — the people.

"Gillette is a very giving community," Cater said. "It has amazed me what this community does when push comes to shove."

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