Food bank turns 40 as local need intensifies

Day by Day:
Food bank turns 40 as local need intensifies
By LIZ THOMPSON
August 9, 2020
This Week News

Rearranging food containers to make room in a packed-full fridge is a delicious plight not everyone has.

Matt Habash, president and CEO of Mid-Ohio Food Collective, tells a story about a mother who came to the organization’s food pantry with her 14-year-old daughter.

When the girl was offered a piece of fresh fruit, she replied, “It’s not my day to eat,” Habash said.

“She explained … that her family was taking turns eating in order to make the food stretch throughout the week, even though her father worked a full- and a part-time job, while her mother cared for their three children and grandparents,” he said.

Situations like this are why, 40 years ago, the idea of the food pantry began. It grew from a small pantry in the basement of a church into Operation Feed Foodbank.

Forty years later, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, 3960 Brookham Drive, Grove City, is celebrating its anniversary.

“In our first year, we distributed 205,200 pounds of food. In 1986, Operation Feed Foodbank moved to a larger warehouse on West Mound Street and became Mid-Ohio Foodbank,” Habash said. “That year, we distributed 9.5 million pounds of food.

“Today, the food bank is located in our 204,000-square-foot, Gold-LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified facility in Grove City and serves as the anchor asset of the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.”

Mid-Ohio Farm on the Hilltop, Mid-Ohio Kitchen, Mid-Ohio Farmacy and Mid-Ohio Markets emerged from a brand refresh that began in January.

“Over the decades, we’ve learned that hunger goes beyond the dinner plate — a car breaking down, losing a job, combating racism, finding affordable housing, or earning a decent wage,” the organization’s website says. “The Mid-Ohio Food Collective is about rolling our sleeves and meeting our neighbors where they are.”

More than half of the food it distributes is fresh. The food bank doles out more than 75 million pounds of food a year — enough for at least 155,000 meals every day.

“Especially with the current pandemic, we have people who are in need of food more often, and we have customers who are coming to us for the very first time,” Habash said. “From March to June, we measured a 30% increase in food distribution compared to the same time period last year.”

The collective believes in food as health. When reducing food insecurity, it effectively is creating healthier communities. Healthier people mean better health outcomes while helping to lessen health-care costs.

“Food matters; nutritious food matters more,” Habash said.

Not all customers come through a food pantry. They may come through a referral from their physician or while attending Columbus State Community College. Habash said the collective is thankful for the donors, volunteers and advocates who support its work.

“Volunteers are vital to our mission,” he said. “The work we do would not be possible without them.”

As it transitions from having the National Guard on-site, the collective will need neighbors from the community more than ever to aid in continuing its mission and serving customers during this time of great need. Soon, 734 volunteer slots will need to be filled each week. All precautions are being taken with temperature checks, sanitizing, distancing and masks, and volunteers may work alongside others with whom they already have close contact.

“Whether talking about (the) 14-year-old, or the senior living in isolation making choices about paying for her medicine or paying for food, or the veteran who is so proud … and ashamed to ask for food assistance that he volunteers at a local food pantry, these stories really speak to the resiliency of our families and the commitment they have — like the rest of us — to make sure we have food on the tables for our families,” Habash said.

Before the pandemic, the collective’s research showed the majority of the families it served included an employed person. COVID-19 greatly disrupted this trend. Now, so many families find themselves having to make ends meet during these confusing and unsettling times.

To learn how to help or to find help, go to midohiofoodbank.org or call 614-277-3663.

No present like time, Bexley students learn

 

Day by Day:
No present like time, Bexley students learn

By LIZ THOMPSON

Dec 3, 2018
This Week Community News

One of the best gifts we can give someone is time.

In October, 172 Bexley (Ohio) eighth-graders heard from speakers about community projects to help them choose how to serve their town with 15 hours of service.

Crystal Carley is the seventh- and eighth-grade language-arts teacher and community-project manager for Bexley City Schools.

“I asked speakers to talk about how they married their interests with a need in their community,” Carley said. “Students listened attentively and asked relevant questions that helped them understand possible avenues for service for their project.”

Speakers included Tim White with Mid-Ohio Foodbank and Taylor Nolan with She Has a Name, whose mission is to fight human trafficking.

Student Maya Murray was surprised to hear about human trafficking in central Ohio.

“I already knew what it was but things like that are hard to think about,” she said. “As a teen, the world will soon be in our care and so it is important that we take action to stop things like this and that our parents also inform us so we can protect ourselves and help other teens … escape the abuse.”

Speakers who are parents of students included Tricia Keels, Laura Robertson-Boyd, Monique Lampke and Deborah Grayson.

Keels started Souper Heroes. The organization holds dinners across the city from October through May during which volunteers serve homemade soups to guests. Donations benefit hunger-relief organizations.

Lampke spoke on the Make-A-Wish Foundation; Grayson talked about teaching English to refugees.

“The project that interested me the most was the one with the refugees,” student Keira Murray said. “I like anything that helps with the community but especially something more direct where we can help our community and get to know the people we are helping.

“I love being able to meet and work with people and think it is especially important to hear directly from them and what their experiences are. To me, the ‘unity’ part in (the word) community is very important.”

Keira said she believes volunteering is a way to get to know more people and build stronger bonds.

“We can reach out to people and with time they might reach back,” Keira said, “and then together we will be able to make a change.”

The students also learned about the Ronald McDonald House and Salvation Army. Bexley City Schools staff member Sandi Hoover talked about mission trips to Guatemala.

Meagan Warren, a sophomore and founder of Books for Bedtime, shared about her nonprofit organization and her efforts to promote literacy.

Student Evelyn Holzhall said she was surprised there were so many charities in the heart of town. She was interested in learning about Grayson’s work with immigrants.

She learned female immigrants and members of the charity meet to talk in English about their lives and culture.

“Grayson told us one time they cooked a recipe one of the women brought in after they put it into English,” Evelyn said. “Another day, they celebrated the feast of Ramadan. The immigrant families were so welcoming they even let the charity workers into their home for the feast.”

Evelyn said she was glad to learn about the efforts, but in the end, she chose to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I had known of it since I was 6, and it holds a place deep in my heart,” she said. “I just think it is awful for a kid to die of sickness at such a young age, but even more awful for their dreams to never come true.”

To Evelyn, volunteering assists the charities to help those in need, but it also ties her community together.

“If you give time out of your day to help members of our own community … our community would be so close and always caring for one another, and to me, that’s just awesome.”

Consider adding time to your gift list. These teens did with genuine enthusiasm.

 

 

 

 

Hearts, not honors, drive volunteers

Day by Day: Hearts, not honors, drive volunteers

By LIZ THOMPSON

July 16, 2018

This Week Community News

They build, repair, clean up, train and rescue. They knit. They quilt. They stock food-pantry shelves. They work in thrift shops to earn money for cancer research. They plan church potlucks or vacation Bible school. They do odd jobs around their community.

You know these people; you might see one in the mirror.

They are volunteers.

Some receive awards for their hours of selfless labor. Most do not.

The Jefferson Award Foundation is a national recognition system honoring community and public volunteerism in America.

The mission of the foundation is “to power others to have maximum impact on the things they care about most. Through celebration, we inspire action. Our programs and partnerships drive Americans to change their communities and the world.”

When I received the phone call from Angela Pace, WBNS-10 TV director of community affairs, about my nomination, I said, “What did I do?” She chuckled.

The day of the award ceremony, my curiosity led me to talk to other nominees. The one consistent comment was, “I didn’t do this for awards.”

We were all stunned and honored to be there.

Almost 10 years has passed with many more awardees. I asked Angela for her take on why people volunteer.

“We’re looking for that person who saw a need, a problem, a void, and, instead of saying, ‘Someone should do something about that,’ says, ‘I think I’m going to do something about that.’

“For most of our nominees, their volunteer project is very personal and stems from an event, a situation that hits home. They do what they do to try to keep the bad that has happened to them from happening to others. They do what they do to help chip away at, in their small way, a much bigger problem. They do what they do to fill a void, to honor a lost loved one, to bring peace and quiet and hope and beauty and smiles to those who need it.

“Something in their gut tells them … this means something to me … this is something I have to do. And they do it. And they’re not looking for recognition or reward. I can tell that when I call to let them know they’ve been nominated for a Jefferson Award.

“I hear the disbelief in their voices … then the humility and the genuine gratitude,” Pace said. “And I know then that my judges have made the right choice. It makes my day.”

Volunteers spend countless hours helping make their corner of the world a little better, never looking over their shoulder to make sure someone records their actions.

The man who clears snow and ice from the sidewalks and driveways for those who cannot just hopes for a hot cup of coffee when he gets home.

The women who make lap quilts for cancer patients to use during chemo treatments pick the colors and pray over the finished work.

Knitters and crocheters who make hats and scarves for the destitute and fleece blankets, hats and scarves for homeless and veterans in the Stand Down program hope for the day the need disappears.

Children and adults take part in food drives for those in need.

People spend hours cutting and crocheting grocery bags to make plastic mats for the homeless. Why do they do it? Why spend hours working for strangers or for no reward or recognition?

There is no one pat answer — and there is a reward, though it is not tangible.

The reward is making a difference — and likely not being aware at the time. The reward is helping another, doing the right thing for the right reasons and hoping for the best and for an improved future.

Those who weave the yarn, plastic and threads, donate food, help their neighbors in a myriad of ways, lend a hand and use their gifts to benefit others don’t expect awards.

A smile will do, and maybe a hug. Better yet, the reward will come when their example inspires someone else to take action.

A simple, “How can I help?” is a good start.

 

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.

Big volunteer results

Day by day

Big volunteer results grow from tiny start
By Liz Thompson
THIS WEEK NEWS
April 16, 2013

In 1970, a group of doctors’ wives in Grove City wanted to raise money to help battle cancer. More women joined the cause. Many were what we called housewives in those days. Again, don’t underestimate.

Mary Crane, of Grove City, was one of the originals. “Cancer was coming to the forefront and not going away anytime soon,” she said. “We wanted to help.” They started with fundraisers such as bake sales and card parties.

“We heard that a couple other towns were starting thrift shops to raise money,” Mary said. They followed the example and rented a little store on Broadway next to an auction house. The first year they made $500. In 2012, they donated $31,745 to the cause.

They moved a couple times for better space. In the last decade, they opted to send their monies to the Columbus Cancer Clinic, begun in 1921, and in 2005 became an agency of LifeCare Alliance, which provides services to seniors across the region.

“We met with them and were impressed and decided to go with them. The Worthington and Reynoldsburg shops decided to do the same thing,” Mary said.

The Columbus Cancer Clinic is Medicare-certified and provides education about cancer prevention and early detection, head-to-toe cancer screenings, examinations and mammograms, regardless of patients’ ability to pay. In 2011, the program served 3,469 clients providing 1,593 mammograms, 1,163 head-to-toe cancer screenings, and 713 clients with home care support services.

Linda Sharp, retired, who has been a volunteer for almost 10 years, said it feels good to give to the clinic because it helps people locally. “If someone needs a wig, because of their treatments, they can go there and get one.”

Shirley Barnes of Grove City, recruited by Mary Crane, loved working the shop for 37 years. The second year, she was asked to be president and said they needed more help and they formed a board of volunteers. “We didn’t even have a sign yet.”

“We hoped to find a cure but didn’t realize at the time there were so many types (of cancer), she said. “I believed in the cause.”

The Grove City Thrift Shop, located off the north side of Stringtown Road at 3684 Garden Court, is not easy to find. But once you do, little treasures abound. It’s not just about the trinkets or clothes you might find; it’s the people who will help you. Volunteers are what make this trip worth it.

After a little shopping, I got easy answers to my question, “Why do you volunteer here?” The overriding answer is because cancer touched their lives. The volunteers are giving back.

Shirley says she always got more out of working at the shop than she put into it. “The stories customers would tell us about people in their lives with cancer, well I think they felt safe telling us. If we volunteered there, we must have compassion.”

Betty Lewis of Columbus, a retired school secretary with South-Western City Schools, has volunteered since 1995. Her mother and mother-in-law had cancer.

Sue Shilling, of Mt. Sterling, said her husband and mother had cancer. She was a frequent shopper there but after retirement, she wanted to contribute to a worthy cause.

Dorothy Lanch, of Orient, has a little more than a year under her belt at the shop. “I felt like I’d been here for years the moment I walked in the door as a volunteer,” she said. A friend died from cancer and breast cancer is in her family. “I wanted to do something worthwhile after working in the corporate world for 41 years,” Dorothy said. She retired from Nationwide Insurance. “It’s shattering to see someone retire and months later they are gone, just like that,” she said, referring to her friend.

Sharon Downing of Grove City, a 37-year volunteer, said, “It’s a business and there is a lot of background work these self-giving volunteers do. We have lost some volunteers to cancer and some of our volunteers are cancer survivors.” Sharon and her family have struggled with the disease.

There are more than 50 shop volunteers with this passion to give back. I wish I could name them all, but that’s not why they do this.

Mary said, “No matter what you do, or how you do it, or when you do it, you can help fight cancer.”

For more information about donations, consignments or volunteering, call the Grove City Thrift Shop at 614-871-1126. Find out more about LifeCare Alliance at lifecare alliance.org.