Written by J. Patrick Eaken
Friday, 26 September 2008 09:26
Food banks and toy pantries are having a difficult time finding enough donations to meet demand.
Even Governor Ted Strickland made the call asking Ohioans to consider a financial donation, says the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks.
Governor Strickland’s plea came after windstorms from the remnants of Hurricane Ike left an estimated two million customers throughout the state without power, adding to the problems of increasing poverty even more.
“I know Ohioans will respond to this situation as we always do — with kindness, generosity and with a sense of community. That’s why I am encouraging Ohioans to offer whatever assistance they can to help our food pantries and soup kitchens,” Strickland said.
In Oregon, New Harvest Christian Church is taking an innovative approach towards pantries. Pantry director Don Schiewer, while making a presentation to the Oregon-Northwood Rotary Club, says New Harvest’s pantries look more like stores.
“We hand out a shoe box that is wrapped, but we want them to feel like they are in a shopping atmosphere,” Schiewer, New Harvest’s pastor of servanthood, said. “We don’t want to force anything on them they don’t want and just say, ‘Here are your toys.’”
During the holidays, New Harvest gives needy families Christmas cards, and does the same for birthdays. The church has begun collecting shoe boxes of toys for the upcoming Christmas season, and does not send any overseas.
“Last year, Ottawa County and the City of Oregon had extra toys from their toy drives, and they brought them over,” Schiewer said. “We create a store and kids come in and pick their own.”
New Harvest also works with the Oregon and Northwood police departments to receive confiscated bicycles for redistribution.
In addition, the church has clothing and food pantries set up like stores.
Schiewer says the pantry, at Seaman and Coy directly across the street from The Gathering Place, sets up its pantries that way to give the benefactors a feeling of respect. He says the strategy appears to be more encouraging to needy families.
The pastor says his pantry has gone from serving 65 to 70 families a year-and-a-half ago to over 300 families each month now. Like thrift stores and pantries everywhere, New Harvest struggles to meet the demand.
“We use to be completely private donors, but now we’re getting into the need to cross into the corporate realm,” Schiewer said. “To feed 300 families, your expenses are getting up there.”
Schubert says poverty exists in suburban Oregon as well as East Toledo, and Oregon experiences both urban and rural poverty. He says rural poverty makes the situation more difficult because those in need are “10 to 15 miles from anything.”
“It’s insurmountable. Twelve to fifteen miles is just too far go to,” Pastor Schiewer said. “We are finding new homeless moving into Northwood and Oregon and some of those areas. They are safer there.
“That’s what we’re trying to do — bring normalcy to a chaotic life. We really do listen to people who are struggling.”
New Harvest is establishing a mobile pantry to meet demand, and also has begun working with the Area Office on Aging. The church also plans to open a third pantry in East Toledo and provides access to counseling and job help services.
On Saturday mornings, about 100 pantry volunteers distribute about 300 brown bag lunches to the homeless in downtown Toledo as part of New Harvest’s “Food for Thought” ministry. The lunch distribution has grown so much, Schiewer said, at about 10:15 a.m. about 215 to 300 homeless individuals show up at the downtown library waiting to greet them.
“We’ve really been fortunate,” Schiewer said. “It’s no great scheme of our own people or anything. People in suburban areas really have a great connection to people who are in poverty.
“Our downtown street teams will continue to distribute backpacks to people in need in downtown Toledo on Saturdays throughout the winter. The most urgent needs are winter hats, gloves, scarves and blankets. Other needed items, such as socks, brushes, combs, tooth brushes, and umbrellas are also included.
“Everyone is invited to participate in this ministry, either by helping pack and distribute the lunches in downtown Toledo, or donating needed items, such as individual bags of chips, juice boxes, cookies,” Schiewer added.
All donations can be dropped off in the church office, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or Friday at 6 p.m. Volunteers can join New Harvest on Friday nights at 6 p.m. in the University of Toledo’s Davis Hall to pack the lunches, and Saturday morning for downtown distribution.
In Oregon, New Harvest Church distributes food and clothes weekly Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.