An increase in need at the Dublin Food Pantry will lead to the group's first paid employee.

An increase in need at the Dublin Food Pantry will lead to the group’s first paid employee.

Since its start, the Dublin Food Pantry has been a volunteer-based organization, but board members decided to hire a part-time director to take the reigns.

Board member Christine Nardecchia said the group started as a faith-based organization and grew with the help of Dublin churches.

“It really has progressed to the next level where it needs to become a 501(c)(3) organization, so the board is working on incorporating it as a nonprofit and hiring its first part-time director,” she said. “Demand is increasing and we want to stay ahead of the curve by not just being reactive to the need of hunger, but by being proactive and getting someone in there who knows how to fundraise (and) deal with demandÉ”

A board for the Dublin Food Pantry in itself is relatively new. The advisory board started in the spring to work on strategies for fundraising, communication, operations and other pantry services.

The food pantry is led by volunteer executive director Linda Fisher, who has wanted to create a board for the organization for years.

“This year we seated the first board of trustees. We never had an organizational structure, so from the time I was asked to step in as director, that was my goal,” she said.

Another goal was getting someone in a paid position to lead the food pantry.

Fisher said she tries to keep her volunteer time at about 20 hours a week as executive director of the Dublin Food Pantry.

“It was a realization over time that this has just grown into more than what a volunteer can reasonably be asked to do and it has been at that point for three or four years,” she said. “The issue was that we didn’t have a stable enough budget to make that commitment to hire someone.”

But some local churches have made the food pantry part of their monthly budget and local groups such as the Dublin Kiwanis have given funds to the food pantry, Fisher said.

“We have income coming in and we have a blessing of money from the Dublin Irish Festival. We got $8,000,” she said.

A part-time, paid director will take over Fisher’s job of administration, organizing food pickups, training and other responsibilities that have been growing since the recession hit.

“It (demand) peaked at 250 (families) a month a couple of years ago,” she said. “Back in 2008 and the end of 2008 we were hitting 250 and the beginning of 2009 was the highest. In March of 2009, we served 269 households.”

The Dublin Food Pantry saw a decrease when the Worthington Food Pantry opened in July 2009, but numbers again grew.

“Worthington is serving 300 (families) per month and (those families) would be coming to us if Worthington had not opened,” Fisher said. “Now we’re creeping back up, in fact 25 to 30 of clients are people who have never been to our food pantry before.”

As the Great Recession continues, Fisher said food is often the item that can be struck from a family’s budget.

“Food is the most flexible part of the budget,” she said. “You have to pay rent, but you can choose to eat bread and butter.”

Last month, Fisher said, the Dublin Food Pantry served 402 adults, 372 children and 40 senior citizens.

“And that’s the Dublin school district. These are our neighbors,” she said. “People are recognizing the increase in need in the suburban area.”

Catherine O’Connell, volunteer coordinator for the Dublin Food Pantry, said the increase in need over the past few years has translated to more volunteers to help sort the food, collect it and serve clients. The food pantry uses 230 to 250 volunteers per week, she said.

“We’re very happy with the support we’ve received from the Dublin community both in terms of supplying volunteers and providing food for their fellow community members,” O’Connell said. “Dublin has been just a really wonderful community to work with and they ought to be proud of responding to that need.”

Fisher is hoping the generosity of Dublin continues so the food pantry can move to a larger facility. The Dublin Community Church has housed the food pantry and covered its facility expenses, but the pantry is running out of space.

“The people are very responsive there, but we have just outgrown the facility. They have given us as much space as they can, we’re just really cramped for a food service organization,” she said. “We have a dream that goes so much larger than that: the Dublin Care Center.”

Fisher imagines a facility with classroom space and the ability to offer support services such as English classes, computer literacy classes, mental health counseling, divorce counseling and more.

“That’s our long-term goal to have a facility to offer those services to move ahead instead of being stuck in that circle,” she said. “That’s not all clients. Some are in one or two times, but others cannot get ahead.”