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.

Help available for local seniors

Day by Day

Help available for local seniors
By Liz Thompson
ThisWeekNews

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Like it or not, we are aging, every day. When we find our first gray hair and start noticing how many stairs there are — everywhere — life starts changing.

Most of us, once settled in a home and community, want to stay there and keep our independence. To do that safely takes planning, but it can be done.

Two Ohio legislators, state Reps. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus), have taken steps to help that happen. They sponsored House Bill 84, the Ohio Home Renovation Tax Credit.

According to the legislation, it “would provide up to a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit for the costs incurred to modify an existing home.”

The bill states, “The accessibility features promoted in HB 84 represent an evidence-based prevention strategy that has been shown to reduce the incidence of falls among older adults.”

HB 84 says home modification promotes independent living. Getting the legislation passed is still in the works.

Some safety measures homeowners can take include having good lighting and working smoke alarms, clearing walkways inside and out, removing loose rugs, and installing grab bars in the bathroom/shower/tub and sturdy handrails on both sides of stairs.

If falling is an issue, especially when living alone, an optional alert system might be a good call. A person wears a bracelet or pendant with a button to push when he or she falls and needs assistance. Learning to use a cane, walker or scooter can help a person get around safely and is worth thinking about.

When help becomes a necessity, we may not know where to turn. The good news is there are answers.

The Franklin County Office on Aging has a Senior Options program that funds three suburban call centers that offer well-being checks via telephone and other services.

Judy Lewis, activity and outreach leader at the Evans Senior Center in Grove City, said its Senior Call program ( 614-277-1060) began because Jackson Township paramedics saw many seniors or people with disabilities who were alone and had few resources. They contacted her and with her help, the fire and police departments developed the program in 2004.

“We get calls from all over, not just the Grove City area, because we are in the Senior Options brochure,” Lewis said. “I can’t turn them away.”

She meets applicants in their homes to learn about their needs, when they want a phone call and to match them with the right volunteer.

“It’s a rewarding opportunity for the volunteers,” Lewis said.

Grove City offers Smart911 for residents. This free service allows citizens to create a safety profile on smart911.com for their household that includes any information they want 911 to have in the event of an emergency.

Upper Arlington offers Kind Call (614-442-4016), a telephone check-in service that is free for residents. The automated calling system tries each phone number up to three times; if there is no answer, a dispatcher tries. If that fails, a police officer checks the residence.

UA also has the File of Life program. Information pouches were mailed to residents age 60 and older to fill out with medical and contact information to display on their refrigerators. It helps emergency personnel know where to look when responding to a 911 call.

“It’s important to stay engaged physically and socially. Stay strong and have a system in place where someone checks on you. We need to watch out for each other,” said Amy Schossler, director of the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging.

She suggests contacting local senior centers for information and to find ways to stay involved in the community.

Westerville’s Safe Call (614-901-6790) is free to anyone who is homebound, disabled or elderly and lives within city limits or in Blendon Township. If no one answers the automated call at the set time, the call goes to a designated backup person to check on the resident. If that fails, a paramedic and police officer go to the home.

“It has no restrictions of age or need. Anyone who feels the need to receive a check-in call can sign up,” said communication technician Kippy Shurman.

Westerville Chief Fire Marshall Paris Smith-Higbie is in charge of fire inspection, investigation and public education.

“Prevention is important and we offer home fire safety inspections upon request,” he said. “We point out fire and tripping hazards and how to correct them and we make recommendations for things like handrails.”

Call (614-901-6600) to request an inspection.

These towns offer more than I can write here. Check your city offices for what might be available or contact the Franklin County Office on Aging at 614-525-5230 or officeonaging.org for more information about available assistance.