Dublin Villager

Dublin Irish Festival

Pantry reaps record collection at event

City still calculating attendance, revenue for the three-day event

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From the view of the Dublin Food Pantry, this year's Dublin Irish Festival was a success.

The nonprofit group located in the Dublin Community Church, 81 W. Bridge St., collected more food than ever during a Sunday morning drive that provided free admission before 11 a.m. in exchange for a donated food item.

"We had over 200 volunteers at the festival and sorted all day here from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.," pantry Director Nancy Johnson said. "We had over 19,000 pounds of food. That's the most ever. Last year, we had 14,000 pounds.

"This is unbelievable. We had a 14-foot truck and three cargo vans all maxed out. We had to go back and get more food. It was phenomenal."

With nearly 2 tons of food donated to the pantry, volunteers stocked shelves at the West Bridge Street location and stored the rest at the group's warehouse.

"We're incredibly pleased with the amount of food and the generosity of the Dublin community to support the food pantry," pantry Board President Mike Wible said. "It exceeded all expectations. We were blown away by the amount."

The collection at the Dublin Irish Festival is the organization's biggest drive of the year. Each year, the pantry gives 350,000 pounds of food to Dublin-area families.

"That translates into food for 150,000 meals a year," Johnson said.

Although jobs reports show an economy on the rebound, Johnson said the Dublin Food Pantry has been helping 240 families a month.

"Food stamps were cut in November, so that has upped the number," she said. "We're filling in gaps for people who can't get by. They say unemployment is down, but the other side is people are doing small jobs or part-time jobs. A lot of people are working, but it's minimum wage."

The Dublin Food Pantry also sees immigrants, seniors and professionals who were downsized during the recession and are still searching for a job.

"If you walked in, it would be very different from what you would picture in your mind," Johnson said of the clientele.

"It's a hidden and unknown issue in the community," Wible said. "Most people don't think of the fact that people living in Dublin may not have food to feed their family for a whole month."

The Dublin Irish Festival collection also helps the Dublin Food Pantry save money: The more food on the shelves, the less food it has to purchase from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

"It's the biggest collection for the year and we're grateful to the city," Johnson said. "We have drives at corporations and schools all the time, but this is by far the biggest. Without this, it would be really difficult."

Dublin Event Administrator Mary Jo DiSalvo said a successful collection by the Dublin Food Pantry could translate to high attendance numbers for the festival.

"We know the Saturday rain impacted us," she said.

Attendance, beverage sales and revenue for the three-day event were still being calculated at press time.

More than 1,100 runners participated in the festival 5K on July 31, DiSalvo said.

"My perception and that of many people we talked to is the only time we were behind was when it rained on Saturday morning," she said. "Then it was full-speed ahead throughout the rest of the festival."

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