Since New Albany Bridges' launch in February, partnerships with the New Albany Food Pantry and the New Albany-Plain Local School District have helped connect numerous families with needed resources, according to the nonprofit organization.

New Albany Bridges is one arm of Neighborhood Bridges, a nonprofit organization founded in 2017 in Westerville by CEO Rick Bannister.

Bannister said Neighborhood Bridges engages the community through technology and social media to run a daily campaign for kindness.

The organization was designed for suburban and rural communities where poverty has begun to climb since the turn of the century, he said.

New Albany is the organization's most recent community, Bannister said.

"We estimate we've served between 30 to 40 folks already," he said.

In addition to Westerville, the organization has expanded to include Dublin, Grove City, Hilliard, Upper Arlington and Worthington in central Ohio, he said.

The organization also has a presence near Birmingham, Alabama, with Hoover Bridges, Bannister said, and at the end of the month, it will have a location near Cincinnati with Sycamore Community Bridges.

Each division of Neighborhood Bridges works through school districts, local charities and churches to connect families in need with goods or services, he said.

Community members can donate money for needed items or services or provide the item or in-kind service, he said.

"It's an all-in effort to engage the community," he said.

Bannister credits Susan Keiser-Smith, logistics coordinator of the New Albany Food Pantry, with reaching out to Neighborhood Bridges on behalf of the New Albany community. The New Albany Food Pantry is under the umbrella of Healthy New Albany, and it is operated from the school district's annex building at 79 N. High St. More information is available at newalbanyfoodpantry.org.

Vineetha Thomas serves as one of the area directors for New Albany Bridges; the other is Lynda Peel Brown.

Thomas said she first heard about the organization through her volunteer efforts at the New Albany Food Pantry.

The New Albany resident and mother of Noah, a 9-year-old third-grader at New Albany Primary School, and Luke, a 5-year-old who will enter kindergarten this fall, said she also has a vested interest in supporting students in New Albany-Plain Local.

The mere presence of a food pantry in the city also demonstrates the community has residents who need support, she said.

New Albany Bridges focuses primarily on helping families within the school district, Thomas said.

New Albany Food Pantry staff members and counselors from the school district can post specific requests on the New Albany Bridges website. Those needs then are posted for the community via facebook.com/newalbanybridges and neighborhoodbridges.org/newalbany-oh, she said.

In the roughly two months since the organization's launch in New Albany, the community has helped donate winter coats, gloves and mittens, as well as an eye exam, Bannister said.

Monetary donations or requested items may be deposited at a dropbox at the Plain Township Fire Department, 9500 Johnstown Road, he said.

As much as 10% of the New Albany-Plain Local student population participates in the free and reduced-price lunch program, a federally assisted meal program, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway. Enrollment is about 5,000, which means as many as 500 students could be participating in the program, he said.

"Our counselors are really vital in identifying those needs that we see within the school buildings," Gallaway said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah