Trinity Lutheran Church's pastor, the Rev. Barry Scott, stood in the parking lot behind his church for two hours one day last month, side by side with a little volunteer, filling plastic bags with green beans and handing them to people who needed that helping hand.
Scott and the 9-year-old girl were helping with the monthly fresh produce giveaway in Union County in June. The church will host three more giveaways at 9 a.m. on the fourth Wednesdays of July, August, and September. The next giveaway is scheduled July 24.
"I just thought this could be a very tangible way to make a difference in people's lives immediately," Scott said.
He said he found out about the program to give out fresh produce when he met with a member of his congregation who works for Lutheran Social Services in Columbus. The purpose of the meeting was to find a way to partner with LSS.
The produce is donated to Lutheran Social Services and the church does not have to pay for the food. It just organizes the giveaway.
The program is intended for people whose income is 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level. Participants are asked to sign a sheet saying they qualify so LSS gets an idea of who is getting the help.
The morning of the giveaway, LSS sends a truck full of fresh produce to Trinity Lutheran Church, 311 E. Sixth St., Marysville. Volunteers set up a big tent and work to bag fruit and vegetables for families in need of healthy food. The truck typically carries somewhere around 10 to 12 pallets of food for distribution at no charge.
"The two times we've done it so far, it's been around 12,000 pounds of produce," Scott said. "Last month, we had watermelons, cantaloupes, tons of green beans, onions, summer squash and cucumbers -- there was just all kinds of stuff.
"People line up really early and last time, things came really early, so we started an hour early. People just kept coming and kept coming," he said.
The handout lasted three hours and 315 families were served. Scott said he had no idea so many people in Union County needed this kind of help.
"I guess I thought there would be 50 to 100 families," he said.
But as the giveaway continued, people started calling and texting others they knew who needed food. He knew people who lived in the church's neighborhood would be able to use the produce, but had no idea how far the need stretched.
"All through Union County -- they're coming from everywhere. That's over 800 people. That's a lot of lives affected," Scott said.
The church does not put any limits on what people can take home, he said.
"We just tell people to take what you need. Whatever you think you can eat before it goes bad, we give it to them," Scott said. "I didn't get the sense that anyone was trying to abuse the system or take advantage."
Tom McCarthy is in charge of getting volunteers lined up for the monthly events.
"We have had very good participation by about two dozen volunteers of all ages," McCarthy said. "We always can use more, especially with temperatures going into the 80s and 90s.
"The volunteers, frankly, have done an outstanding job."
Scott would like to see more people give their time to the project, like the young girl who helped bag green beans last month.
"Her family is a military family and they move around a lot, so they know what it means for things to get tough. But they still feel pretty blessed and they want their kids to know they have something to give," he said. "I think that's exactly the right thing -- to know how much you're blessed and find a way to give back."