Westerville Area Resource Ministry
Pantry anticipates busy holiday season
In the week before Thanksgiving, a family stopped into the Westerville Area Resource Ministry pantry to donate a frozen turkey to a family in need.
Hearing the pantry still didn't have enough turkeys to feed all of the families that had requested them for the holiday, the family immediately left for the grocery store and returned with four more turkeys.
Stories like that abound at WARM, executive director Scott Marier said, and that is what helps give him faith as the pantry expects to serve a record number of families for December and, once again, face an increase in demand next year.
"Scripture says that with God, all things are possible. We're a faith-based organization, and faith plays a huge part in that," Marier said.
The generosity of the community is how Marier explains WARM's ability to provide services to more than 5,000 families this year.
"Every month this year, except for one, has exceeded what we did the year before," Marier said.
In fact, WARM's food pantry has exceeded its monthly service record twice this year: In August, when food was provided to 469 families, and again in October, when 475 families were served.
Marier said he expects November's and December's service numbers to exceed the October record, as WARM's Thanksgiving outreach program provided turkeys and trimmings to more than 270 families earlier this month. That compares to 217 families served for Thanksgiving last year.
Marier said WARM expects to serve 500 families in December and end the year with a 9 percent increase over the 4,900 families it served in 2011.
Generally, the numbers the pantry serves in December become the benchmark for monthly service for the new year as families return in January.
"It doesn't go back to our old rates. It's always a new normal," Marier said.
Rates could be higher than WARM projects next year due to changes made by the government.
The federal government is expected to decrease by $50 the amount it provides to families on food stamps each month, which will be hard for families already in need.
"For a family already at the end of their rope, it's going to push them over," Marier said. "I'm cautious with what impact that's going to have, but I think that's going to have a significant impact pushing families to an organization like ours."
Other families will feel the crunch, too, if Congress fails to reach a deal on deficit reduction before the end of the year, which would mean an increase in taxes for middle-class families.
Experts have projected that if Congress doesn't act on automatic decreases to spending and increases to taxes, the country could be pushed into another recession, again increasing need, Marier said.
Regardless of the need, he said, those at WARM trust an always generous community to respond.
"(Our donors) are champions; they really are," Marier said. "It's not something that we do or we could ever do alone. It's because the community engages and cares about others. It's the only way it works."
Marier said WARM works hard to put the community's donations to good use helping others locally and reports back to donors regularly so they can be confident that their money is being used effectively.
"They generously give, and from our standpoint, we are challenged to be good stewards with everything entrusted to us," Marier said. "I want them to know how grateful we are for the support that we've had and we have."
Even with strong community support, Marier said, there is a sense of faith that goes into being confident that WARM can continue to meet ever increasing demand.
"We pray like it all depends on God, and we work like it all depends on us. (God) expects us to serve: to be his hands and be his feet," Marier said. "Sometimes, we just step out and trust that the prevision will be there. In the last eight years, it always has been."