The Hilliard Welfare Council recently changed its name to the Hilliard Community Assistance Council (HCAC).

The Hilliard Welfare Council recently changed its name to the Hilliard Community Assistance Council (HCAC).

The council's six-member board felt the former name was outdated.

"Welfare has a negative connotation to it, and we wanted something that was a little more reflective of what we do," said council president Debbie Smith. "We provide assistance. We're not a welfare agency."

The HCAC's mission statement is: "To provide assistance to persons in the Hilliard School District who find themselves impacted by financial problems or other hardships."

The HCAC will continue to provide assistance to people in the Hilliard School District by operating the Hilliard Food Pantry, a utility assistance program and a holiday program that provides children with gifts and families with groceries in December.

In addition, the HCAC has renewed its affiliation with the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. The nonprofit, volunteer-based organization also plans to increase its fundraising efforts and to secure a larger space for the pantry.

Although the Hilliard Food Pantry has been operating for more than 50 years, the 450-square-foot facility on Norwich Street is too small to accept clothes, furniture or household items. And although demand for its services is increasing, Smith said the organization is still struggling with name recognition.

"As long as we've been around Hilliard, there are still many people that are not aware of our existence," Smith said. "We need their help and support, financially and through food drives. We also want to make sure that the people in Hilliard who need help are aware of our existence."

"Our goal is to provide our current services to even more people and to broaden our services to better serve those in need in our community," HCAC board member Tracy Bradford said in a statement. "We are just beginning a strategic planning process to lay the groundwork that will guide us in achieving these goals."

According to the HCAC, in 2010 the organization served 704 families; paid out $14,123 to assist 141 families who received utility shut-off notices; and provided toys and groceries to 150 families in December.

However, hunger happens year-round. "We do tend to get a lot of support around the holidays, and we're working real hard to spread that out throughout the year," Smith said. "We've had a very busy summer, and we're running short on items in the food pantry."

"This is a step in the right direction," Smith said of the recent HCAC changes. "We had a very small core group, and by expanding the board, we're trying to get other involvement, create awareness and everything that a board typically does."

The HCAC also has a newly-designed website and that can now accept online donations through PayPal.

"Anybody who is interested in conducting a food drive or donating, there's drop-off sites noted on our website, or for any kind of a larger donation, they can give me a call (614-529-9602) and we can arrange to meet them at the food pantry," Smith said.