Jul 3, 2013

Move to new location helps local food pantry expand its services, plan for even more growth

The move to a new location has been very beneficial for the Friends and Neighbors Community Choice Food Pantry and the people it serves, but the pantry still has big plans for even more improvements.
Earlier this year, Friends and Neighbors moved from its previous home in Lottridge, where it was renting space, to a new location that it owns just off of U.S. Rt. 50/Ohio Rt. 32 near Coolville.

The new location is larger and more easily accessible, and it has allowed the pantry to increase some of its services in order to help area residents in need. The new facility has one main building that currently houses the food pantry, soup kitchen area, clothing bank and nurse’s office.
Lisa Roberts, director of the Friends and Neighbors Community Choice Food Pantry, explained that the food pantry currently serves about 1,000 people each month.  The pantry allows its clients to choose a limited number of items, instead of just handing out food boxes. This way, the families can select items that best meet their needs, Roberts said.
At the previous location, the center also served a free lunch once a week. The new facility allows Friends and Neighbors to serve free lunches on Tuesdays through Fridays.  The pantry usually serves between 5-15 people at the lunches.
The new pantry also has a nurse’s office where two volunteer nurses from the Coolville area hold office hours on Wednesdays for area residents. The nurses are able to do things like blood pressure checks and other tests, schedule visits from the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s mobile clinic and schedule programs with the Athens City/County Health Department. The nurses are also able to assist area residents with over-the-counter, non-prescription medications at times.
Friends and Neighbors is also looking for donations of medical supplies such as crutches and diabetes testing kits for its clients.
The new location also has room for more buildings and for a community garden, and Friends and Neighbors is already working on both projects.
Already, for example, the pantry volunteers have built a 24 by 24 shelter that can be used for a variety of purposes. Currently, the building is holding donated furniture items that Friends and Neighbors received from Ohio University students during the campus move-out weekend. Many of the items have already been given to area residents, and all of them will be distributed soon.
Connie Elick, who manages the clothing and furniture program for Friends and Neighbors, said that the items from the Ohio University move out weekend have been a big plus for many local families.  Some families need chairs, desks, bed and other items, and Friends and Neighbors is able to give them some very nice furniture due to the donations from the college students.
One local family, Elick added, lost all of their home furnishings in a house fire. The family did not have insurance to replace what they lost, but Friends and Neighbors was able to provide them with several furniture items to help them start over.
Friends and Neighbors always welcomes clothing donations, and Elick said that clothing for all ages are needed. Baby clothes are especially welcome, as the pantry often receives visits from young parents who need clothing items for their children.
After the move-out donations have all been distributed, Friends and Neighbors will use the shelter as a picnic area and as a drop-off location for the regional food center in Logan. Food pantries in neighboring counties will be able to pick up food deliveries at the Friends and Neighbors shelter, rather than having to drive all of the way to Logan to pick up food.
“They want to use us as a hub,” Robert said, adding that the pantry is happy to help in this way. Eventually, Roberts would like to add on to the shelter.
“That will be the front porch of the new pantry,” Roberts said, adding that she would like to have a 40 by 40 warehouse building added onto the shelter. This new facility could be used for storing and distributing food, clothing and other items. All of the funding for will have to be raised through donations.
Friends and Neighbors is always looking for donations of food, clothing and money to help with its programming. It also needs volunteers, such as the current need for a volunteer to run the lunch program. The food pantry is doing some great things in its new space, and it is helping a huge number of people by providing food, clothing and friendly faces for them talk to about the challenges they are facing.
For more information on the Friends and Neighbors Community Choice Food Pantry, call 740-667-0684.

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