Help My Neighbor is a nonprofit organization formed to help another organization that helps neighbors.

Anna Moreno, longtime director of the Smoky Row Food Pantry, started Help My Neighbor after discovering some businesses had policies prohibiting donating to church-related charities.

The pantry, which turned 10 years old this year, operates in space provided by the Smoky Row Brethren Church, 7260 Smoky Row Road, in northwest Columbus.

To help tap into more sources of food for people in need, Moreno and others held yard sales, bake sales and other fundraising efforts to provide money for formation of a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

"We did it little by little," Moreno said.

The organization is designed to help those that other social programs do not cover, according to the helpmyneighbors.org website.

Many local food banks serve only poverty-level clients, but Help My Neighbor officials said the organization provides for individuals and families who do not qualify for government assistance but still fall into the category of temporary need.

"It is really a great organization," said Marianne Lease, a Dublin resident who became involved with Help My Neighbor a little less than two years ago and now assists in raising funds. "There's zero discrimination," Lease said.

"They are very open and accepting to everyone who needs help."

Once Help My Neighbor was up and running, Moreno said the main way in which the new entity could help the Smoky Row Food Pantry was by raising the money to buy a large refrigerated truck, which was accomplished in 2015.

Moreno said it was thought the truck would increase the capacity for accepting food donations, but the vehicle has turned out to be valuable in another way.

"During the week it is used a lot for cold storage," Moreno said.

"It has greatly increased the donations because we are able to pick up every day."

According to the website, food donations to Help My Neighbor come from Whole Foods stores on Sawmill Road and Lane Avenue, the Sawmill Road Trader Joe's store, various Chipotle and Starbucks stores, Fresh Thyme, Carabba's, Gordon Foods, Bob Evans, Panera Bread and City Barbeque.

Partners with Help My Neighbor listed on the website include Smoky Row Brethren Church, Smoky Row Food Pantry, St. Vincent DePaul Society, St. Peter's Catholic Church, Highlands Presbyterian Church, Vineyard Church at Sawmill, Lord of Life Lutheran Church and Linworth United Methodist Church.

Lease said she became involved with Help My Neighbor at a time of upheaval in her life.

"I had just lost my job, so I decided it would be good for me to stay busy and active and get involved," she said. "A long, long, long time I was homeless myself, and could have used services like that had I known that they were available."

Lease gravitated to assisting with fundraising because she's been in sales most of her life, "so I don't have trouble asking people for money."

With the holidays approaching, Moreno said Help My Neighbor has a special fundraising campaign called Christmas Hams for the Needy. Donations of $25 provide a Christmas ham dinner for a needy local family. Moreno said last year's campaign also provided food pantry customers with turkeys and whole chickens.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1