Catching up with the folks at the Ohio County Food Pantry midway through their expansion finds everyone looking forward to the next phase of construction, but decidedly on task, helping fill the food needs of hundreds of Ohio County families, one box at a time. Every Wednesday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and the second Saturday of the month from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., volunteers greet their clients like dear friends, while giving out much needed food aid monthly.
Over the last decade, from it’s humble beginnings in a single Sunday school room to the current locale; an old gas station on Main Street, the OCFP has become accustomed to outgrowing and readapting as the need arises. The gas station has served them well, and continues to do so but like any well used, aged building, it has issues. From buckets on desktops during rains to inadequate space, everything is being addressed.
The new facility being built is currently a shell over the old building; the smaller building will be dismantled and removed as funds become available. An 18′ x 40′ walk in freezer has been secured by the Lions Club of Ohio County. The club notified the pantry last fall that OCFP had been chosen as the recipient of their 100 Year Legacy Project, “a gift by the community – for the community.” During the ensuing months, the club held fundraisers, including a bean supper on election day. A freezer from a restaurant in Bowling Green was purchased, and the Lions Club is overseeing the dismantling and re-assembling of the freezer, that will be big enough for the pantry to drive the fork lift into. The blessing of that Rebecca Baird, OCFP Secretary/Treasurer says is “over the last two months I’ve had to turn down meat donations because I had no where to put them she added, fortunately someone always takes it and uses it between the different pantries and homeless shelters in the area we all try and work together to share what we can.”
The pantry is able to purchase food from Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland, of Elizabethtown. “A wonderful organization to work with”, said Baird. Feeding America is considered a food bank; a distribution center for foods to be utilized at the local level. Not only does Feeding America have food for local pantries to purchase, they also handle the distribution of the programs like the BackPack Program, as well as the Senior Commodities Program. For those over 60 years of age, whose household income falls within the federal government guidelines to receive help a 40 pound box of food and a 2 pound box of cheese is available monthly, that’s in addition to what’s available at the pantry on a weekly basis.
Feeding America has a national contract with different retail stores but the only local store in the group is Walmart. Twice weekly, pantry volunteers are allowed to go directly to Walmart and pick up surplus inventory and discontinued food items. The bounty is then weighed, categorized and reported back to Feeding America. This ensures help to those who need it most. The Ohio County High School continues to partner with the pantry. Students with extra-curricular organizations are often required to fulfill volunteer hours to meet criterium requirements; helping our community at the same time.
When asked what his tasks were at the pantry young volunteer Caleb Brown replied readily, “whatever they ask me to do”. That evening the tasks included taking juice and fresh fruits out to the clients. Dennis McClure, started volunteering with OCFP one week after retiring from Delta Faucet in 2013, and has been there ever since.
The pantry, has volunteers doing some type of task almost everyday. During off hours one team comes into the pantry and makes up boxes to be given out during open hours. Another unseen team assembles for the weekly delivery and once a month, the Ohio County Road Department sends 2 men, with a tractor trailer to Feeding America, in Elizabethtown. The truck leaves the pantry early in the morning and returns mid morning with a full trailer of approximately 26 pallets of supplies. Then, yet another crew will come in to help unload and stock that inventory.
While on the tour of the new facility, Baird, and Anita Smith, Community Partner/OCFP Administrative Office were excited about having the additional room that the new space will provide. There are plans for a classroom to help people better utilize the aid that is given, as well as offering classes to help educate their clients about financial matters. Chris Baird, OCFP Director said, “Our long term goal is to not only feed people, but to improve peoples lives. Eventually, once the old building is torn down, we want to teach people how to cook, how to use the food we give them. At some point we want to administer a financial class. A lot of folks don’t know, I didn’t know what I didn’t know until someone taught me, and they are no different. More than giving somebody something to eat for a little while, I want to be able to help Ohio Countians get better.”
The construction on the facility is being done as funds become available, not going into debt is hugely important to the Baird’s. “We must be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us, every bit of this construction is being done as funds become available.” Chris said.
When asked what was the most pressing need for the shelter, Becky replied earnestly “More awareness in the community. We still find people that say ‘I didn’t know my mom would qualify and could use this program’, people just don’t know we are here and how we operate.” You can choose to help financially or by volunteering, but also help spread the word folks, help make a difference in our community.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” This sentiment still rings true with the volunteers at the Ohio County Food Pantry. Volunteers make the organized chaos run with precision, sharing the general feeling that they didn’t want any focus on themselves; that they were there just to help, working and laughing with other volunteers and clients alike. Truly like a family.
— Kathrine Newman Timmons, mykynews.com