Have a HEART
Food pantry trying to fill increased need for aid
Valentine's Day may be past, but volunteers are hoping residents will "have a heart" and donate to the HEART Food Pantry.
The food pantry, at 240 Outerbelt St. in Columbus, serves Reynoldsburg and many East Side Columbus area families, said coordinator Ann Kinder.
"Since we opened our doors in November 2011, we have only seen the need increase," she said. "So many people think of doing food drives and donating around the holidays, but it is really a year-round need."
Kinder said the pantry kicked off its "Have a Heart Campaign" on Valentine's Day, encouraging businesses to conduct food drives during the month of February and trying to remind residents to collect and donate canned goods and personal care items.
"We serve more than 400 clients a month," Kinder said. "We are run 100 percent by volunteers."
She said she can identify with the clients of the food pantry.
"I can speak from experience because I have been unemployed and had to use a food pantry," she said. "Many of our volunteers have similar stories and that is why they are so passionate about helping the community in this way."
She said local businesses can pledge to host a food drive by going to the HEART Food Pantry Facebook page and posting their commitment.
"The number of clients we serve continues to grow," she said.
Some of the most urgently needed food and personal care items include cereal, canned fruit, shampoo, instant oatmeal, spaghetti sauce, deodorant, Hamburger Helper, canned chicken, toothpaste, Tuna Helper, applesauce, diapers, elbow macaroni, boxed mashed potatoes, feminine products, catsup and mustard, toilet paper, canned soup (although no chicken noodle or tomato) and dish detergent.
Kinder said HEART has provided more than 32,000 meals to families in need since it opened.
"These days, families in need include the unemployed, those with medical issues, veterans or even people with jobs who simply don't make enough to cover food costs," she said.
She said HEART's dozens of volunteers offer more than food to people in need.
"They provide listening ears, shoulders to cry on, warm hugs and thoughtful prayers," she said.
Donations must be delivered during the pantry's service hours from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays, unless other arrangements are made by calling 614-441-7998.
Kinder said the website is being updated, but people who cannot drop off food should be able to donate online at heartfoodpantry.org.
She said HEART is set up as a choice pantry where families and individuals can choose from open shelves like they would in a grocery store.
HEART's service boundaries are Havens Corners Road to the north; Hamilton Road to the west; the Licking County line to the east and the city of Reynoldsburg as the southern boundary or Interstate 70.