Faith-based community plays critical role in helping feed our va - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Faith-based community plays critical role in helping feed our valley

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WARREN, Ohio -

Only 13 of the 148 food pantries it is affiliated with the Second Harvest Food Bank in Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana counties are not located at a church.

At Christ Episcopal Church in Warren, about 40 members of the church give their time to pack bags of food so kids at Warren's three inner city elementary schools won't go hungry.

In the past 8 years the Episcopal Diocese has given $10,000 in grants to pay for that food. Volunteers raised more in donations through fundraiser "Taste of the Valley" to help fund this effort.

Volunteers at the church rotate one week out of every five weeks. They drive to the church to pack the food for the elementary school students no matter how bad the weather gets.

"We've been here when it's been blizzard conditions outside,"said volunteer Anne Martin. "You just can't let the kids go hungry."

"We receive our order of food from Second Harvest Food Bank and we pack it in bags on Thursdays," explains Lindsay Day. "The schools pick up the bags of food on Fridays, and the kids take it home at the end of the day for the weekend."

Day and her husband Peter have been volunteering for the 8 years the program has been operating. When asked why he volunteers his time, Peter Day said, " We lost a daughter and we felt we should give as must as we can, and that's why we do it. Our daughter loved kids and did so much for children." Volunteers from Blessed Sacrament and the Boy Scouts also help in the five week rotation.

In Liberty Township, at the Church Hill United Methodist Church for the last three years, about 30 volunteers have been taking part in the backpack program that provides food for students at E.J. Blott Elementary.

"Without the food it would be awful. Kids would be hungry. The children are given the food in a discrete way in their backpacks. After they receive the food you'll notice a difference," said Renee Ray an administrative assistant to the Superintendent for Liberty schools. "Some skip to the bus. They're excited because they feel like they're receiving a gift, and they really are from the churches, community and Second Harvest Food Bank."

Ray and church volunteer Sharon Wathen have worked with Second Harvest Food Bank to meet a greater need and open a food pantry at Church Hill United Methodist Church.

That food pantry is to meet the needs of people in the community, the elderly, and others who live in Liberty Township, who just need some help to put food on their tables.

Sharon Wathen, one of the organizers of the community pantry said, "Now that the pantry has opened the volunteer base to help distribute food has expanded to include students, faculty from the school, and folks in the community. The pantry has been open since September and opens doors the first Friday of each month from 10:00 am to noon. We are served 69 families who live in Liberty in November. It was Renee Ray's idea."

You can help hungry families and people in our area by donating non perishable food items to any area Sparkle Market.  Donations of food and money can also be made to Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.  For every one dollar donated, the food bank can distribute $11 worth of food.

There are hundreds of volunteers in churches and organizations who donate time and money to help feed our Valley.

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