Nancy Johnson was very busy in April learning the ropes at the Dublin Food Pantry.

Nancy Johnson was very busy in April learning the ropes at the Dublin Food Pantry.

April 1 was the starting date for the nonprofit organization's first paid employee.

Johnson replaces Linda Fisher as executive director and will work for the group based in the Dublin Community Church on a part-time basis.

This isn't Johnson's first foray into the world of nonprofits.

Before putting in 13 years at the Columbus Museum of Art as volunteer liaison, Johnson worked for Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

"I worked in the inner city for 10 years," she said.

"I was training volunteers. I had some understanding of the problems people have before they come here."

According to Dublin Food Pantry Board of Trustees President Amy Tibbals, Johnson's experience in nonprofits helped net her the job.

"She came with volunteer understanding and is a licensed social worker," Tibbals said. "She's been on the front lines."

The search committee was also looking for someone with skills for the food pantry's future, Tibbals said.

"We knew that in our executive director we wanted someone with experience in areas we hope to build on," she said, adding that more fundraising could be in the group's future.

A job wasn't exactly in Johnson's plans, though.

"I hadn't planned to work. I retired," she said.

"The job was mentioned to be by one of the board members. I thought it was very important.

"What's more important than making sure people don't have to worry about food in stressful times?"

After meeting with the search committee, Johnson said she was impressed by the group.

"This is something I want to be a part of," she said.

Since starting, Johnson has met volunteers and learned about everything that goes on at the food pantry.

The pantry runs on about 200 volunteer shifts each month, along with the help of core volunteers and board members.

"The volunteers are here because they care about people," Johnson said.

"If you talk to our volunteers you hear that it (volunteering) gives them as much to be here as to serve others," Tibbals agreed.

Volunteers help pick up food, organize and stock shelves, divide food and aid clients when picking it out.

The Dublin Food Pantry is a pantry of choice, Johnson said, which means clients pick out what they'll eat.

"You don't realize how complex an operation this is," Johnson said. "Things are perishable so the wheel is always turning."

Food provided at the pantry during the three days it is open to clients is meant to supplement households, not be the sole supplier.

It also tries to supply items food stamps don't cover such as toilet paper, feminine products and diapers.

"Those items cost a lot of money," Tibbals said. "When you're looking at feeding your family or buying diapers, it's a hard choice to make."

Even though going back to work wasn't in Johnson's plan, the 15-year Dublin resident said it's been enjoyable.

"I worked downtown all those years," she said.

"It was a serious 60-hour a week job. It's wonderful for me to be in the Dublin community and finally meet my neighbors."

It's also given her a chance to educate others.

"My friends were surprised we have a food pantry," Johnson said. "That's the first thing people asked me when I came to the food pantry."

Clients served by the food pantry have lost their pensions or jobs, are under- or unemployed or have dealt with serious medical expenses, something that can happen to anyone, Johnson said.

"This is for crisis moments you can't plan for," Tibbals said.

"The food pantry is not just for low-income people. It's here for an emergency. Hunger has no ZIP code."

For more information on the Dublin Food Pantry, look online at dublinfoodpantry.org.

jnoblit@thisweeknews.com