Despite serving a record number of people during the holidays through its Adopt-a-Family program, Canal Winchester Human Services isn't ready to rest.
Administrator Penny Miller said she hopes to start a new backpack program before the end of January. The Adopt-a-Family holiday program, which provides food, clothing and gifts to families in need, served 340 people in 2012, 30 more than 2011, which had been its largest year, she said.
"Of the 340 people we served, about 65 of them were children that were not specifically adopted by a donor, so Human Services took responsibility to provide them a Christmas like everyone else," Miller said. "This is an exhausting but very heartwarming project that we get to do and it truly only happens because of the community. One person, or even one organization, couldn't pull this together alone."
Miller said there were hundreds of volunteers and individual donations along with significant contributions from Meijer, the Fairfield Foundation, the Byron Saunders Foundation and the Canal Winchester High School basketball team, which raised $1,100 for the program.
"This year, the Mid-Ohio FoodBank wasn't able to give their annual holiday gift that's come in previous years, so we were worried about how full we'd be able to make the food baskets for each family," she said. "However, we ended up having so many people step up.
"We were also able to provide a coat closet this year, thanks to Nathan Anderson's Eagle Scout project."
According to Miller, Anderson collected more than 400 winter coats, as well as other goods, for the Adopt-a-Family program as a part of his Eagle Scout service project. Anderson is a member of Boy Scout Troop 103 in Canal Winchester.
The new backpack program is separate from day-to-day food pantry operations, she said.
The Walmart Foundation awarded $100,000 for a three-year backpack program covering both the Canal Winchester and Bloom Carroll school districts. There are currently about 1,100 eligible children between the two school systems.
"Our intent is to start providing each income-eligible child a meal for each non-school day during the academic year," Miller said. "Even if we assume 650 participants, over three years, that's less than $2 per meal."
A similar program in Kettering, Ohio, spends about $4.50 per meal, she said.
"The generous grant from Walmart is great, and it's a great partnership with the Walmart Foundation as well as our local Walmart, but we will need all of the food donations specific to this program that we can get," Miller said.
Because the two programs are separate, contributions made to the pantry itself cannot be rolled over into the backpack program, or vice versa, Miller said.
"We're looking for groups of volunteers to come and fill these backpacks every week. Also, families of eligible children were sent letters to apply for support; however, if they didn't receive one, they can contact the pantry about applying," Miller said.
Potential donors or applicants should call Miller at 614-834-3888 for more information.
The Community Food Pantry is planning to again host its Souper-Bowl fundraiser at the pantry, 360 W. Waterloo St., on Sunday, Feb. 3, prior to the annual NFL Super Bowl. In addition to soup, the event will include an art sale, a bake sale and a silent auction.