We have much to be thankful for this year at the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center.
I say that not just because of the growth we have experienced -- including a new building, expanded programming and an annual budget that surpassed $1 million for the first time -- but because this growth has allowed us to respond to the neighborhood's needs, which we have seen escalate during these past 12 months.
The CRC's Choice Food Pantry has served more people than ever during 2013. The reasons are many, from cuts in food assistance programs to the reality that recovery from the national economic recession reaches low-income and poverty-stricken families more slowly than the rest of us. Our food pantry service area now includes Upper Arlington and northwest Columbus, which also brings more people to us who have nowhere else to turn.
We meet that growing need in many ways. The Mid-Ohio Foodbank ships around 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to the CRC's doorstep every Tuesday evening, and we, in turn, get that into the hands of people who need it most within 24 hours. Most Wednesdays, we distribute boxes of fresh produce to 120 families in two hours.
The CRC has dedicated volunteers (and we're always welcoming more!) who pick up day-old bread from local shops, produce from Lucky's Market, and much more. Supporters from a network of neighborhood churches also prepare hot meals -- Tuesday and Thursday nights, and Sunday breakfasts -- to feed all who come.
We also turn your financial donations into food for neighbors who need it. With the power of buying in bulk through the food bank, we can turn your $60 into enough food to feed a family of three for a month.
The CRC also is blessed to have partner schools that host food drives for us, churches who pack sack lunches that can be handed out on an emergency basis, and neighbors who tend community gardens that produced more than 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables last summer.
Of course, the center is about much more than feeding people. When we added a second building at 3222 N. High St. in May, we were able to free up much-needed space at 14 W. Lakeview Ave. and bring our growing seniors program under our roof. The population of folks 60 and older continues to climb, as do the types of services they need to remain independent, happy and healthy.
So the CRC's senior services program seeks new ways to serve that segment of our community. Yes, providing trips to grocery stores and medical appointments and offering personal financial management support are as important as ever.
However, we are striving to meet the evolving social needs of a young and vigorous population right at 60-65 who don't even think of themselves as "seniors."
The CRC's youth services program also saw substantial growth in 2013. A second Kids Club site was started at Maple Grove United Methodist Church, serving as a safe and affordable after-school program primarily for Indian Springs Elementary School children.
The club mirrors the one hosted for Clinton Elementary School students at Clinton Heights Lutheran Church, which has maintained a waiting list for years.
Another CRC service, which meets the needs of youth and adults, is the Kinship Care program, a countywide initiative that addresses the expanding issue of children being raised by relatives who are not their parents. It provides resources for those adults who need a helping hand in maneuvering through the challenges brought on by unexpectedly having young kids under their care.
None of these things could happen without your generosity and support. Whether you make an annual pledge or buy tickets to the Dec. 9 Mozart's Holiday Fundraiser to benefit the CRC, every dollar goes a long way toward helping us help you and your neighbors.
As government funding continues to be tenuous and private foundations receive more requests than they can fulfill, local contributions are essential to keep our programs and services running. Now, more than ever, we rely on your donations to change lives and make a positive difference in our community.
For more information, including how you can make a donation or volunteer your time, visit our website, ClintonvilleCRC.org, or call 614-268-3539.
Bill Owens is executive director of the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center.