Mike Ford, the director of the Heritage Memorial Food Pantry in Washington C.H., met recently with Record-Herald staff to discuss how the food pantry operates.
The office manager is Shirley Preston, a retired Miami Trace Local Schools counselor. The assistant office manager is Elaine Cockerill, a retired secretary for Washington Court House City Schools. Their husbands, Brant Cockerill and Mike Preston, serve as assistant directors over the pantry.
Ford explained, “We all like to work together. We had to have something to do; we wanted to help the community out and make a difference in people’s lives along the way.” Ford discussed enjoying having something to do during retirement, and by volunteering they get to help others.
When clients come to the pantry, they sign in, receive a pre-boxed set of food based off household size, and get to pick up extra food that has been placed on tables. This helps the pantry keep track of who they service. A household is allowed one visit per month. Since there are various pantries in the county, households can stock up throughout the month by varying these visits between the different options.
In February, the pantry served 413 households. Within these households, there were 257 seniors over the age of 60, 568 adults between the ages of 18-59, and 313 children served. This means the pantry directly served 1,138 persons within one month.
The pantry doesn’t get food for free from the Mid-Ohio foodbank. Pantries have to purchase the food from Mid-Ohio but at a lower cost than traditional retailers. Peanut butter, according to Ford, is one of the most expensive foods to buy. He explained they are able to apply for grants to help with the purchasing of food.
The pantry also gets donations, particularly from the Walmart Distribution Center. Every Friday, volunteers pick up food from the distribution center. Sometimes there isn’t a lot, sometimes there is plenty. On Feb. 22, they picked up approximately $1,213 worth of dry goods, $1,000 worth of freezer items and $160 worth of dairy and deli products.
Ford explained, “We try to throw as little away as we can; we try to be conservative.” The pantry sends a great deal of supplies to other pantries and will often trade with the Fayette County Food Pantry at the First Presbyterian Church.
According to Ford, they also send excess supplies to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the Warehouse, the homeless shelter, Commission on Aging, the Rose Avenue After-School program, The Well and The Bread of Life.
When flowers have been donated, the volunteers have taken them to local nursing homes. When they get supplies and donations that would be appropriate for the pregnancy center, such as diapers and Pedialyte, they send them there. Sometimes the center will buy diapers through them as it’s cheaper than buying it retail.
On Feb. 15, they sent 792 packages of diapers to the center. Ford said they save the center approximately $1,000 every month. This money can then be utilized for other purposes. The main problem with this is they can’t control the size of diapers and the center always needs newborn diapers.
According to Ford, seven to 17 volunteers show up to help them on Mondays and Fridays. Everyone who runs the pantry are volunteers, including himself. Ford explained, “Nobody gets paid.”
“We’ll take anybody that is willing to come and volunteer their time and effort.”
Those who want to volunteer or send donations can reach the Heritage Memorial Food Pantry at 740-636-1111.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @kenanipel