It is said the holiday season is a season for giving, but for Culpeper Food Closet Manager Bob Hilton, the giving season lasts all year long.
Hilton is a behind the scenes type of guy. He always pushes everyone else to the front when kudos are in order. However, everyone who volunteers with him knows that he plays an important role in the success of the Culpeper Food Closet as well as their lives.
“He’s like the main glue that holds us all together,” said Pam Alvey, food giver and scheduler. “He really is a good person, and he truly believes in what he’s doing.”
Hilton, who is in his 70s, has worked for the Food Closet for about 20 years. On a normal day, he can be seen weaving in and out of shelves, picking up and moving boxes of food around while other volunteers fill up shopping carts for clients.
“Bob works a lot of hours and does a lot of back-breaking work,” said Barbara Rosica, who’s husband Dick previously ran the Closet.
The Rosica’s met Hilton during a golf outing when he expressed interest in joining them in volunteering.
After Barbara Rosica and her husband Dick retired in 2019, Hilton took over the operation, she said.
“I would say the number one thing is that he’s a very hard worker,” said Culpeper Food Closet Volunteer Manager Sharon Guenther. “He’s committed to making sure that the community has food, that people less fortunate have food.”
As an outreach ministry of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, the Culpeper Food Closet provides food and other items to local families and others in need of assistance. The Closet provides thousands of meals weekly to people around Culpeper.
Hilton, who isn't a part of the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, works at least three days a week at the ministry picking up food from local grocery stores, bringing it back to the Closet, sorting it and shelving it.
“I always tell him he’s as strong as an ox,” Guenther said. “It’s a huge job. It’s a ton of work, physical work.
Sometimes, Guenther continued, he even works when it's closed.
She recalled the day after Thanksgiving when the Closet was closed, Hilton still took the truck around town to gather food to bring back for families to eat even after the holiday ended.
Hilton has helped provide food for local families during countless Thanksgivings and Christmases - and even through a pandemic when the Closet remained open to feed the community’s most vulnerable.
Hilton’s wife, Pricilla, Guenther added, helps as well by making food orders for the Blue Ridge Food Bank, which “bulk and bulk of canned goods.”
“He amazes me actually how strong and physical he (is),” Guenther said, adding she’s about 15 years younger than him and doesn’t believe she could do the same labor. “Physically, it's a ton of work and he just keeps it going.”
“We can’t function without him,” Alvey added. “None of us can function without Bob.”