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Church food pantry hoping to continue to grow

| October 6, 2015

COSHOCTON – The Upper Room Assembly & Worship Center has helped hundreds of people each month since opening its food pantry in January and would like to serve even more.

“From January to June we served roughly 100 families a month or between three and four hundred individuals, but after partnering with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank (in Columbus) we were able to do so much more with our money,” said Karen Casey, who volunteers with the church’s food pantry. “With purchasing from them we were able to help 248 families last time and well over 600 individuals.”

The church had to run its food pantry for six months on its own to prove to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank that it was committed and could finance a food pantry.

“We knew the other pantries around here gave away a lot of canned goods and boxed items so we try to get meat and frozen food,” Casey said. “We order (from Mid-Ohio Foodbank) a good deal of beef, chicken and pork and try to get frozen food like breakfast sandwiches. We think people really like that and that it’s been a real blessing in the community.”

Those who come to the food pantry will only be asked for their name, address, number of people in their family and their ages and do not have to show proof of income.

“When we started all of this I didn’t want to have to turn anybody away,” Casey said. “I want to help everybody. Mid-Ohio does have a financial eligibility spot on its form, but they said we don’t have to be too strict with it. If someone stands in line we can still give them food. We want to help the disabled, retired, people who lost their jobs and even those who work every day.”

The food pantry is currently open on the third Thursday of every month with sign up at 5 p.m. and distribution starting at 5:30 p.m. If the weather is bad, volunteers will open the doors earlier so people don’t have to stand outside. The church also has a produce giveaway the first Thursday of every month with the same starting times.

“If we have leftovers we try to get rid of them within 24 hours so the following Friday there is usually someone here at the church from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to give them away,” Casey said. “We post details on Facebook, but people also can call the church at 740-610-0082.”

The Upper Room Assembly & Worship Center also has an emergency pantry that people are eligible to use once every three months.

“If you called and needed help we could get a box or two ready for you and arrange a pick up time,” Casey said.

The church has received help with its food pantry from Baker’s IGA, The Dollar Tree and Superior Pizza and would especially like to thank Dave Ianniello.

“He (Dave) owns a box truck and allowed us to use it for free at first and now we just pay him a small amount each month to help with the wear and tear of it,” Casey said.

The use of his truck has been a huge help to the church.

“Without him we would only be able to provide a small fraction of what we do,” said Pastor Stan Braxton. “We are very grateful to Dave for letting us use his vehicle.”

He also is very appreciative of his congregation pulling together to get the food pantry started.

“For a new church being just over a year old we’ve been able to provide the community with 35,000 pounds of food a month and we did that with limited funds and a hundred percent of the money coming from our congregation,” Braxton said. “Imagine what we could do if the community started supporting the food pantry as well.”

Any monetary donation goes a long way now that the church is purchasing food from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

“Twenty dollars goes a lot further if we spend it,” Casey said. “A lot of the meat we buy we only pay $.08 a pound for. With $20 we could buy 250 pounds of meat and with $100 we could buy 1,250 pounds of meat.”

Individuals get to pick various items from the food pantry depending on the size of their family, but Braxton said on average a family of four will get three to five days worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner food. It’s helpful if you bring your own boxes or bags, but not necessary. The church usually has some spare ones and tries to have volunteers available to help you carry items to your car.

“The biggest thing we need right now is to get our own vehicle,” Braxton said. “It’s great to have Dave’s help, but it’s not good to have to rely on someone else.”

He said they need about $25,000 to purchase their own box truck and are planning some fundraisers to help make that happen.

“Having our own truck would let us go get food more often and give us more flexibility and freedom to do the food pantry more often,” Braxton said. “We don’t just help Coshocton County. We also help the counties that touch us like Licking, Muskingum, Guernsey and Tuscarawas.”

In addition to monetary donations for the truck and the food pantry they also encourage more people to attend the food pantry.

“We always have some left over,” Casey said. “If we get more people we will just buy more food.”

For more on the pantry or to make a donation, call the church at 740-610-0082, and please note that in 2016 the distribution dates will change to the first Wednesday of the month for the food pantry and the third Wednesday of the month for the produce giveaway.

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Category: Faith

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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