Nicholas LaRue got a first-hand look at the good deeds of the Genoa Food Pantry when he logged service hours there toward his confirmation.
Years down the road, the 15-year-old returned to become a major part of the pantry’s move to larger quarters. LaRue coordinated the transfer from the pantry’s longtime site at United Trinity Methodist Church to the new location at Christ Community Church, 303 W. Fourth St., Genoa. His efforts will benefit more people in the community than he will ever meet, while also earning him points towards his Boy Scouts Eagle Scout award.
“I was nervous,” said the Clay High School freshman. “I have never led anything like that. It was something. It was a lot of responsibility.”
On Feb. 19, Genoa Food Pantry organizers welcomed visitors during an open house/Business After Hours event hosted in conjunction with the Genoa Area Churches Association and the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce.
On Thursday, the doors reopened for the regular food giveaway from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. the third Thursday of the month, followed by the Saturday hours from 10 a.m. to noon.
Genoa Food Pantry serves between 45 to 60 families a month, said Barb Myers, a main pantry organizer. The pantry is also a distribution site for 125 senior food boxes provided by the Seagate Food Bank.
The economic downtown has forced steady growth in recent years, Myers said. And as the need expanded, so did the pantry’s supplies. The growth caused problems at the Methodist church site. The overflow eventually took over Sunday School space.
Even so, storage space still continued to be somewhat limited, meaning some donations were kept off-site until distribution days. Meat donations, for example, were tucked away in freezers across the area until packages could be handed out. And sometimes scheduling became problematic. “If they had a funeral, we had to juggle schedules. Or someone would forget and rent the hall,” Myers said.
Still, without hesitation, Myers acknowledged the Methodist church parishioners have been very good to the food pantry since its inception there prior to 1980. In fact, all the churches have, each scheduling volunteer time to hand out food boxes. But in 2012, the Food Pantry Committee simply had to face the fact that growing pains demanded larger accommodations.
The search ended when Christ Community Church leaders offered space – at no cost just like the Methodist church.
The only stipulation to the deal is that the food pantry may have to help with the electric bill because of increased costs associated with running several freezers and refrigerators on site, Myers explained.
That settled, the food pantry organizers focused on creating a moving plan which began with a major cleanup at the new site.
Cleanup was likely to take a while. “Most of our volunteers are over 50. One couple is 70,” Myers explained. “Physically, it was going to take us some time. So we said, ‘OK, with us old ladies, how long is this going to take?’ We figured maybe March or April if we were lucky.”
Then, LaRue answered the call.
Myers and others were overwhelmed by the offer and his follow-through.
“This is quite impressive – what he has done,” Myers said.
LaRue began his task by measuring rooms, storage bins and shelving at both sites around Christmas time. He secured donations like shelves and carts from the outgoing Anderson’s store. Then he came up with a design plan and then rounded up volunteers, including everyone from his parents Pam and Brad LaRue and fellow Scouts to other family, neighbors and church members across the region. Finally, he coordinated a massive move on several weekends in January.
“We gave him a few suggestions about what we needed and he ran with it,” Myers said. “If anyone ever has any doubts about miracles, just look at this – it’s just been unbelievable.”
All the while, LaRue documented his endeavors with photos, time sheets and personal accounts. The detailed project eventually will be turned in to his leaders of Troop 131, Erie Shores Council, and then move up the ranks for review.
He feels lucky this project came along when it did.
“It makes me feel good that I helped so many people,” LaRue said.
Any extra donated cash collected by LaRue during his Eagle Scout project will be turned over to Jack’s Superette in Curtice. Genoa Food Pantry buys its meat there regularly because of reduced rates and the special one-pound packaging the management provides.
“It’ll sort of be like a credit they have there for a while,” LaRue said.
Myers said LaRue is just another example of the wealth of generous people in the Genoa community and surrounding area.
Individual families, schools and organizations too numerous to mention regularly give food donations and cash to the cause. Some businesses, like Miller’s New Market and Aldi, offer the pantry special food rates while others lend their equipment. A Genoa Custom Interiors truck is used to pick up pallets of food provided at the Seagate Food Bank.
“We have been very blessed in this community,” Myers said. “The people care about each other.”