PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington is once again appealing to area residents to help keep downtown Pickerington awash in shimmering light through its annual "Plaza of Lights" fundraiser.
Pantry Development Director Conor Neville said the pantry relies on the Plaza of Lights as a major funding source for its operational expenses as well as to purchase food.
"While the local community is very generous with food donations throughout the year, the pantry also relies on monetary contributions to keep the lights on and to purchase food staples that are often unable to be donated, such as milk, eggs and meat," Neville said.
For a suggested $5 donation to support one light or $125 for an entire strand of lights, participants can help illuminate the heart of Olde Pickerington Village and in the process shine a light on the issue of hunger in the community.
"The Plaza of Lights is a physical representation of the generosity of the community-each light represents a donation that someone has made to ensure the long-term success of the food pantry," Neville said.
He said last year the Plaza of Lights generated more than $32,000 in donations for the food pantry.
"With a much improved lights display this year, we hope to grow the donations to an even larger amount," Neville said.
The PCMA Food Pantry anticipates an uptick in usage in the coming months because of recent federal cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP.
The cuts translate to about $29 less in monthly food stamp benefits for Ohioans in need, according to Policy Matters Ohio.
"We expect the need for our services to grow substantially this year due to a number of circumstances," Neville said.
"The most important of which is the recent cuts to SNAP benefits," he said.
"People will rely more on services provided by pantries to make up the gap in meal costs."
Neville said recent statistics bear out just how essential the pantry is to the community.
"In October 2012, we provided meals for 140 families, however, in the same month in 2013 we saw an increase of over 40 percent in the number of people and meals we served," Neville said.
"This illustrates the drastic increase in service provision that we have to provide to families in Pickerington."
Neville said the Plaza of Lights fundraiser officially kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, in the plaza next to the Carnegie building, 15 E. Columbus St. in Olde Pickerington Village.
The festivities coincide with the larger Olde Village Holiday event.
"The Plaza of Lights is our biggest fundraiser and now more than ever we are relying on the generosity of the community to help us sustain our mission of 'Fighting Hunger, Feeding Hope' for the people that need it the most, especially during this holiday season," Neville said.
He said to give a tax-deductible donation to the Plaza of Lights, checks can be mailed to: PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington, P.O. Box 914, Pickerington, Ohio 43147.
Those seeking additional information can also call the pantry at 614-834-0079.