Filling a need
Food pantries, free community meals appreciated
Wiping sauce from her 4-year-old’s face as they enjoyed a no-cost lunch on Wednesday, Marietta resident Nikki Smith, 24, said she knows about hard decisions.
Smith brought her two children, Dewainn Mayle, 4, and Briana Mayle, 2, to enjoy spaghetti, meatballs and cupcakes. Smith’s mother, aunt and cousins were also at the luncheon. Daily Bread Food Kitchen, an outreach program of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption, serves 250 meals every Wednesday at the K of C Hall on Marietta’s west side.
“I try to get here whenever I can get a ride because I don’t have a car,” Smith said. “This is really important to have because sometimes you have to make a choice between paying rent and buying groceries.”
In another part of the room, Dana Braun, 65, was offering to help clean in an effort to reciprocate for what he had received.
“God bless them for doing what they do. It’s a win-win situation for everybody,”he said.
Each of the faces there had a different story to tell, and a different reason for needing help.
A report shared by Southeast Ohio Foodbank in May showed that one in seven people in Washington County doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. On top of that, one in four children in the county is facing hunger.
Several food banks and community meals offered locally try to bridge the meal gap by offering at least one way for people to have a good meal or pick up basics for their pantries for free. Most, if not all, rely on donations and volunteers from the community and the need is really growing going into the holidays.
At the Daily Bread Kitchen lunch on Wednesday, the line stretched nearly out the door and extra tables had to be set up to accommodate everyone.
“As the month goes on, it gets fuller. We have a lot of people here today,” said Linda Schaad, one of the 80 volunteers who keeps the luncheon going every week. “A lot of the workers get involved with the people and it makes them feel good to give back. This is just a good way to socialize and a lot of people really come for that reason.”
Former married couple Linda Spriggs, 56, and Braun try to get to the Daily Bread community meal every week. They both live on the west side but drive to the meal when they can.
“We’ve been coming ever since they started (six years ago),” said Braun. “We’ll come together; sometimes she picks me up, sometimes I pick her up.”
The pair share three grown children and say they live better apart than together, but still enjoy each other’s company. The area’s community meals are a necessity for them when they live on limited funds.
“We wouldn’t be able to eat like we do,” said Spriggs, who gets disability after having raised her children working three jobs.
“I used to work construction,” offered Braun. “I liked doing that the best.”
Across Harmar Village at the Harmar Community Center, the Gospel Mission Food Pantry was open for its weekly distribution day. The pantry is open on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for anyone in need of food, clothing or other items that have been donated.
Volunteers Cathy Miller and Kathy Shively both say that the number of people coming to the pantry is on the rise.
“I’ve been a volunteer here since December 2011 and the need is really going up, especially for food,” Shively said.
“Candy and Jeff (Waite) will do anything for anybody, no questions asked,” Miller said.
Peter Nicholson, a transplant from Great Britain, works part time at Norwood Tavern, just up the street from where he lives in a trailer park. He relocated to the area in 2005 after meeting a local woman online. The two married but life has been a struggle for the couple. Nicholson’s wife is disabled and he only got his green card two years ago after some issues with not having a Social Security card. He gets in about 20 hours a week at the tavern, making minimum wage.
“It’s tough. We’d be destitute without the food pantries,” he said.
Debbie Cain, 65, just moved to the area from Sandusky to be closer to her older sister. She is retired from a printing factory and collects Social Security. On Wednesday, she shared a ride with a friend and went home with some boxed foods.
“Food stamps don’t go far enough for a lot of people. Sometimes I do have trouble going week to week but this stuff will last until the next time,” she said.
People of all ages, all walks of life, all backgrounds and backstories take advantage of help when it’s available, even if it means swallowing their pride.
“I used to be embarrassed about it but I have a family to take care of,” said Charitie Slonaker, 27, a single mom to Clayton, 7, and Rosie, 3, who is autistic and suffers from health problems.
Slonaker says dealing with her own health problems and taking her daughter to doctor visits in Columbus has made it difficult to find employment with flexible scheduling.
“I’m getting ready to go back to school to finish two bachelors and one associates (degree), in criminal justice, psychology and social services,” Slonaker said. “Right now I clean houses a little bit and get child support from my son’s father.”
Slonaker homeschools her son and often finds books and crafts at the Gospel Mission. Recently, she found a gluten-free cookbook, which helps with her daughter’s food allergies.
“I saw it on Amazon and it was 20 bucks, so to find it here for free … you can’t beat that,” Slonaker said.
And, in her words, the resources aren’t just food and clothing. There are friendships and supportive communities in a time when many families are broken and just struggling to make ends meet.
“I just got out of the hospital last night and I really didn’t feel like coming today but my neighbor said, ‘just go anyway.’ And I did and I can’t stop smiling. They just make you laugh and they really care about you. That’s what a lot of people need … we don’t get that kind of stuff. It’s nice to know a stranger can brighten your day,” she said.
¯ Daily Bread Kitchen: Knights of Columbus, 312 Franklin St.; Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
¯ Belpre Food Pantry: Rockland United Methodist Church, 2300 Washington Blvd.; Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10-11:30 a.m. and 1-2:30 p.m.
¯ Beverly-Waterford Food Pantry: St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, 309 7th St., Beverly; Tuesday, 5-7 p.m., second and fourth Thursdays, 9-11 a.m.
¯ Gospel Mission Food Pantry: Harmar Community Center, 309 Lancaster St., Marietta; Wednesday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
¯ L.A.M.B. (Lowell Area Mission Basket) Food Pantry and Thrift Shop: 309 Walnut St., Lowell; second and fourth Wednesdays, 9-11 a.m.
¯ Marietta Church of God Food Pantry: 501 Colegate Drive, Marietta; Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon.
¯ Marietta Community Food Pantry: First Congregational Church, 318 Front St., Marietta; Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and Wednesday, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
¯ New Matamoras Food Pantry: Harvest Time Church of God, 1015 Park Ave. New Matamoras; call for an appointment and leave a message, 740-865-9903.
¯ Newport Food Pantry: Green Street, Newport, Ohio 45768; by appointment, 740-473-2900.
¯ Western Washington County Food Pantry: 18 High St., Vincent, Ohio; Monday-Tuesday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Thursday, 1-4 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m.
Source: Washington County Public Library.
Free community meals
¯ 5 to 6 p.m., first Tuesday of each month, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 320 Second St., Marietta.
¯ 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., fourth Tuesday of every month, First Presbyterian Church, corner of Fourth and Wooster streets, Marietta.
¯ Daily Bread Kitchen, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., every Wednesday, at St. Mary K of C Hall, 312 Franklin St., Marietta.
¯ 5 to 6 p.m., second Thursday of each month, at Tunnel United Methodist Church, located at Ohio 550 and Coffman Road.
¯ Free community meal, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., first Friday of each month, at Christ United Methodist Church, 301 Wooster St., Marietta.
¯ 5 to 6:30 p.m., second Friday of each month, at The First Unitarian Universalist Church, 232 Third St.
¯ 5 to 6 p.m., third Friday of every month, at Norwood United Methodist Church, 23 Colegate Drive, Marietta.
¯ 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., third Saturday of each month, Faith United Methodist Church, 503 Seventh St., Marietta.
¯ “Caring and Sharing Free Community Lunch,” 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., second Saturday of every month, at First Baptist Church, 301 Fourth St., Marietta.
Source: Times research.