A local food pantry is planning a special dinner to thank its volunteers and celebrate National Volunteer Appreciation Week.
Ann Kinder, coordinator for the HEART (Helping Eastside And Reynoldsburg neighbors Today) Food Pantry, said Volunteer Appreciation Week April 21-27 is especially important because the pantry "is run 100 percent on volunteer power."
"Not only that, but more than 18 families who work at the pantry have multiple volunteers -- mothers and daughters, grandmothers and grandsons, husbands and wives and entire families," she said.
Kinder said the pantry will host a special dinner for volunteers Friday, April 26.
"More than 50 volunteers work at HEART on a regular basis," she said.
She said the pantry is supported by the Reynoldsburg Ministerial Association and community partners.
Located at 240 Outerbelt St. in Columbus, it serves residents in a geographic pantry that is bounded by 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 to Interstate 70.
The pantry serves Reynoldsburg and many East Side Columbus families, Kinder said.
"It takes a lot of people to keep the operation going," said the Rev. Sue Ellen Miller, co-coordinator at HEART.
She said volunteers do intake, shop with families, load cars, stock shelves and make food runs.
"They are important because they give genuine care, respect and kindness to the people who need our services," she said.
Susan Fryer, from Messiah Lutheran Church, said she volunteers with her 10-year-old granddaughter, Lexi.
"The world is so much bigger than just ourselves and we really don't realize it until we walk in someone else's shoes," she said. "It's important for Lexi and me to serve a local food pantry. Just knowing we could be helping a neighbor who we didn't even know needed help is a good feeling."
Julie Whitney, from Redeemer United Methodist Church, volunteers with her 10-year-old daughter, Bella.
"I don't want my daughter to grow up with a sense of entitlement," she said. "If she is ever in a situation where she needs help or someone she knows needs help, I don't want her to have a fear ... about using a community service like HEART."
Bella said she likes talking to people and helping them shop at the pantry.
"At first, they are focused on why they're there, but I talk with them and they start to feel comfortable and smile," she said.
The food pantry first opened in 2011. Kinder said she has seen community need for the pantry grow each year.
She said people who do not have the time to volunteer can make a difference by making a donation through the HEART website at heartfoodpantry.org or by mailing a check to 1200 Waggoner Road, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068.
The pantry is open from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday by appointment only. Appointments can be made by calling 614-316-0012.
HEART affiliates include the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, Messiah Lutheran Church, Parkview Presbyterian Church, St. Pius X Catholic Church, Antioch Baptist Church, Church of the Redeemer United Methodist and Reynoldsburg Alliance Church and Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church.