Soldiers help get food to hundreds in Miami Valley

Dayton — Friday, 25 members of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 837th Engineer Battalion assisted at a drive-through distribution facility in Dayton. The soldiers were assigned to help at The Foodbank, Inc, at 56 Armor Place in Dayton.

The line was backed up for more than a mile as Dayton Police and National Guard soldiers help with traffic.

Gerry Hulsey is a home care nurse and a Vietnam Veteran. He comes to the foodbank every Friday to pick up food to give to other veterans. He said it’s definitely different seeing soldiers help hand out food, but also that there is a need with significantly longer lines.

"I have 3 sons in the military other places, and they're helping out too,” Hulsey said. “That's what we need to do is help each other."

Lee Lauren Truesdale, the Chief Development Officer for The Foodbank, said they’re seeing an increased need compared to the past week.

“On Wednesday, it was our busiest day we saw 667 total households,” Truesdale said. “456 of those households were first time users."

Numbers from Friday were not yet available.

Col. Dan Shank, assistant adjunct general for Army for Ohio National Guard, visited the 25 soldiers as they worked packing boxes before they were distributed. He described this work as a humanitarian mission and said this is what the National Guard is all about.

“We are from the community, we are part of the community and we’re here to serve the community and that’s our mission,” Col. Shank said. “Some of my soldiers that are here were laid off from their employers as well, so now not only do they get to serve their community but they get to take the benefit of their service back to their families as well.”

Karlee Kreusch is a combat medic with the Ohio National Guard, she was born and raised in Dayton and graduated from Northmont. Friday was her first day of active duty and it was spent working at The Foodbank.

"I like to see the community come through and help them,” Kreusch said. “I know everybody's struggling, even in my family, and close friends are struggling right now."

One person picking up food at the drive thru Friday told News Center 7’s James Rider he’d much rather see the National Guard at the Foodbank than somewhere else. He also said the soldiers’ presence made him feel safer.

The Foodbank will be open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for drive-thru service from 1-3pm through March and then will have expand its offerings in April.

The National Guard will continue to work at the Foodbank for as long as there’s a need.

Truesdale said normally The Foodbank operates with a staff of about 31, but are currently working with only 20 people, so the 25 soldiers allow them to more than double the staff working to box and distribute food.

About 400 Ohio National Guard members and reservists are helping across the state. The guard members are transporting, packaging and distributing food in all 88 of Ohio’s counties.

National Guard also helping in Piqua

Also, food distribution is planned for Saturday, March 28th, at Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua. The distribution will start at noon, and is scheduled to go to 2 p.m.

Officials say pre-registering is necessary, but that there will be future efforts for those who cannot be a part of Saturday’s distribution.

The National Guard will be assisting by distributing food curbside, while the Miami County Sheriff’s Office is providing deputies to deliver food to those who can’t leave home.

The Shared Harvest Food Bank is spearheading the food distribution drive.  The location is in the parking lot of the Adult Technology Center. The address is 8901 Looney Rd., Piqua, OH, 45356. The food bank can be contacted for updates by texting @miamifood to 810-10.

Organizers have set up a traffic flow at the location for efficient distribution to vehicles.