More than a year ago when the COVID crisis first hit Gov. Mike DeWine stepped in to help Ohio food banks that usually rely on volunteers who help distribute food. Those volunteers were no longer available under state health restrictions.
In response, DeWine deployed 500 members of the Ohio National Guard to the food banks around the state, including facilities in Dayton and Springfield. Tyra Jackson, Executive Director of the Second Harvest Food Bank in Springfield, said it enabled them to continue serving families in need and she came away impressed with their skill and dedication.
“Just their ability to jump in and assist us in all of the programming we were doing, especially in a time when all of our volunteer base was unable to help us,” Jackson said.
In early July the Guard mission ended with the lifting of state restrictions. Still, food banks saw continued need for services. So now the state is helping out again with an extra $12 million in the new state budget. The money will go to replenish their warehouses, pay for deferred maintenance of facilities and fund outreach programs that started during the pandemic. Lisa Hamler Fugate, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, said the money will be split among the 13 regional food banks around the state and will go a long way towards helping them serve the public.
Now comes another request and this one is directed towards the public. They need people who helped them out in the past, before the pandemic, to return.
“We need volunteers to come back. We need corporations to say it’s OK for their employees to return to their volunteer activities. And where we are hit hardest is in urban areas where corporations give their employees paid time off to work at food banks,” Hamler Fugate said.
Jackson said there is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities at her facility in Springfield. She is anxious to see those people return who have helped them before and for new people in the community to join the volunteer effort.
“To get more people in to assist us with packing and sorting in house and also with all of our distribution,” Jackson said.
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