Pantries, other groups help those in need

Day by Day
Pantries, other groups help those in need
Liz Thompson
January 28, 2015
THISWEEKNEWS

Uncertainty can mean not knowing where your next meal will come from.

Annamarie, 23, knew nothing but living on public assistance during her young life. Her mother dropped out of school with two children and later with a third child, opted to stay home to care for them, rather than find work.

“At this point, she stopped relying on family and got help from government assistance,” Annamarie said. “Even though we were poor, she did everything a stay-at-home mom would do and did it well. I never understood and still do not understand the path she took.”

She said her mother never felt adequate enough to have a job other than child care.

Annamarie said these experiences made her stronger and made her realize she wanted to provide for herself without help. She hopes others will try to understand her story, listen to others in similar situations and not punish the children of parents who don’t take the best path in life.

As soon as Annamarie was old enough, she got a job and broke the cycle of living on public assistance. “Luckily, I had help from my grandparents,” she said.

Her mother, now 40, has her first job and also is no longer on public assistance.

Statistics are only good as a marker. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (cnpp. usda.gov), a family of four, with young children, spends an average of $857 to $1,296 a month for groceries. That’s 4,380 meals a year.

Where you live isn’t always a good indicator of need.

The Worthington Resource Pantry, 445 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Building G, served 1,000 unique families in 2014 and 400 volunteers offered 15,000 hours to the pantry last year. It has a small, paid staff and is a walk-in choice pantry. That means no referral is necessary to walk in the door two times a month for assistance and shopping is similar to a grocery store.

Executive Director Jennifer Fralic explained assistance is based on family size and need. One time a year, adults show photo ID, proof of address and have a valid ID for each child. Eligibility is based on the six ZIP codes where students are enrolled in the school district. Last year, 30 percent of these students qualified for free lunches, up from 25 percent the year before.

They offer clients, called “neighbors,” employment, emergency and health-care resources as well as food. They partner with Columbus Diaper Coalition, for obvious needs, and Sedona Grace Foundation for dog food.

“I love Worthington,” Fralic said. “And love taking care of our neighbors so no one goes hungry. We see many who are either underemployed or experiencing health or family issues.”

This pantry is open 10 a.m. to noon Monday and Saturday and 4-6 p.m. Wednesday.

She agreed with Don Swogger, board president of the Grove City Food Pantry, that they are seeing more seniors with children and families combining households. Those who are homeless are given food they don’t have to cook.

“We give the homeless peanut butter, bread and canned goods and can’t give them meat,” Swogger said.

Grove City Food Pantry, 2710 Columbus St., has 100 volunteers, no paid staff and offers food and emergency services. Service is by referral only from Hands On Central Ohio, 195 N. Grant Ave., 614-221-2255.

“Right now this is mandatory and can cause delays,” Swogger said. “One of my goals is to have our own referral system.”

The pantry serves Grove City, Harrisburg and Orient and is open 2-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to noon the last two Saturdays of each month. For a family of four, the average given in goods is $135. Families can go to three different pantries a month.

Five years ago, Grove City Food Pantry served about 180 families and now the number is 270.

“Seeing the gratitude of the people truly in need is the highlight of my work,” Swogger said. “I believe it’s a calling from God, for me.”

In 2005, he almost died from complications of surgery and when he recovered he asked God, “What do you want me to do?”

Churches in both cities take turns offering community meals.

Hunger and need are constants in our society. These are only two pantries in a long list. Many people, like Annamarie and her mother, struggle to rise above poverty.

“There are no easy answers,” Swogger said. “All stories are unique.”

To be certain, we can help ease the uncertainty of those in need.

For more information, search handsoncentralohio.org, contact your city offices or local churches.

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Spring rebirth offers ongoing gifts, life lessons

Day by Day
Spring rebirth offers ongoing gifts, life lessons
By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews
Tuesday, January 6, 2015

“Baby, it’s cold outside” is an appropriate phrase, whether sung with the familiar tune or spoken, from December till early spring in Ohio.

By now, and definitely by February, we are ready for sunshine and weather warm enough to step outside wearing only a light jacket. Of course, the joke goes, in central Ohio, if we wait 10 minutes the weather changes.

Squirrel and bird nests, which were once hidden in green foliage of spring and summer, are visible in winter-barren trees,

Nature always has fascinated and soothed me. One poem I wrote years ago called Winter Branches speaks to this topic. In part, it reads:

The branches of the winter tree, wave in the wind, alone and free, reaching up towards the sky, the foreground of sunsets, orange to the eye.

Each tiny branch can be easily seen, for the leaves of cover have fallen and died. The tree seems to have lost any real purpose, naked and cold and seemingly worthless.

But the sap is waiting for the warmth of the sun, to rush through the branches to bring life to what seems done. Then once again all the leaves will grow, and the tree will survive, as it has since long ago.

Regeneration in nature is a true miracle. Springtime teems with new life but in winter, I see hidden hope because I know the sap is running inside the trees and roots underground are waiting to sprout, showing new growth.

Several years ago, we had a sunflower, which we never planted, grow more than 6 feet tall in our garden. Thank you birds.

The next year, we had a long row of sunflowers looking for all their worth like a neatly planted garden of flowers. But we never planted any of them either.
They had multiplied themselves with the help of more of our feathered friends, dropping seed along their flight.

The next two years, not a single sunflower. Then they came back with a mighty force, giving me plenty of cutting to do so we could walk along the sidewalk.

I laughed when I bought a bag of wildflower seeds and saw sunflowers listed. When I planted those in another spot than our volunteer sunflowers, sunflowers did appear with different varieties I’d never seen.

Who knows what we’ll see come spring, but the anticipation is fun.
I was watching an episode of Growing a Greener World (growingagreenerworld.com) on WOSU (Columbus, Ohio) about this topic. A horticulturalist and propagator was showing how to generate new growth by starting new plants from cuttings. She said that plants’ and trees’ only missions are to propagate with a need to duplicate as a matter of survival.

She used the oak tree dropping “buckets full” of acorns to make new trees as an example. Our small but healthy oak tree did that very thing this year for the first time. Thankfully, squirrels collected them for us.

Most years, I save seeds from my zinnias and marigold flowers. The seeds from last year, once blooming, looked different this summer. In addition to growing taller than me, some of the zinnias were multiple colors, with colors, like pink, I’d never seen before. Some had large flowers while others were almost tiny but packed with vibrant color.

Then I learned that when seeds are saved and sown from hybrid plants, the plants grown from those seeds tend to revert to the original plants. A little confusing but the result was remarkable and lovely.

We are already planning our garden for this year. Seed catalogs will soon be here and as the snow blows and wind howls, we will map out what and where to plant. We’ll set up our mini-greenhouse in the basement and start tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It makes the possibility of spring seem closer and expectations an ongoing gift.

The idea of regeneration gives the bleak winter, with hidden treasures waiting for spring sunshine to reveal new growth, more promise. Once the winter season is behind us, we are renewed and ready to get planting.

I think we need times to wait for fresh purpose to stir within us.

The branches of the winter tree set an example for you and me. When all purpose seems to be gone, we can remember the seemingly barren tree.

It knows that soon the spring will come and winter’s cold harshness will be done. We must persist, as the lonely tree, and wait for new life to set us free.Sunflowers