At any time, one's faith can provide nourishment for the heart and soul.

For John Keating, the sports and outreach pastor at Grove City Church of the Nazarene, that belief is evident during the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Naz, as the church commonly is known, has undertaken projects that are helping to make sure students in the South-Western City School District are receiving nourishment for their bodies even as their schools are closed due to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's order.

DeWine issued an order that schools close until April 6 to slow the spread of the virus, then extended the closure to May 1.

The church collected food items to provide dinners for South-Western students March 30 and April 1.

The donation from the church was added to prepackaged dinners the Mid-Ohio Foodbank provided to all South-Western students to pick up March 27 and 30 and April 1 and 3 at Westland High School in Galloway.

The dinner distribution supplemented the grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals the district is providing daily for students to pick up at 15 school sites.

"We heard from the South-Western school community that up to 500 people were showing up at Westland for the dinners, which was 100 to 150 more than they had planned for," Keating said. "We thought that as a church community, we could offer some assistance."

Keating posted a message on the church's Facebook page and website, thenaz.tv/church, putting out a call for enough food items to assemble 150 lasagna dinners on March 30 and 150 barbecue chicken dinners on April 2.

The total request included 14 precooked and premade lasagnas, 13 dozen rolls and 12 large bags of lettuce on March 30 and 13 dozen hamburger buns, 11 trays of Gordon Food Service pulled barbecue chicken, 11 trays of GFS macaroni and cheese and 150 individual snack chip bags on April 2.

Church and community members were asked to bring their food donations to the church parking lot, 4770 Hoover Road in Grove City, at 1 p.m. on each of those days, Keating said. The 150 meals were assembled and delivered to Westland by 3:30 p.m.

"People really came through," he said. "We had enough food donated to easily assemble 150 dinners."

But the church's assistance didn't stop there.

South-Western's food-distribution program was scheduled to pause the week of April 6, the district's previously scheduled spring break.

"We wanted to make sure that school children in our community wouldn't be missing a meal," Keating said.

So the Naz initiated another project to provide sack lunches each day during the spring break week, he said.

The church collected food donations April 2 to April 4, Keating said.

Other churches, including the First Baptist Church of Grove City, joined the effort, he said.

The sack lunches were scheduled to be distributed via a drive-through operating between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. each weekday during spring break at the church.

The Naz plans to continue collecting food to provide dinners after spring break is over, Keating said.

The assistance provided by the church and the food bank is appreciated, said Lisa Hamrick, South-Western's food-services supervisor.

The district's grab-and-go meal program is open to anyone up to 18 years old, she said.

"Most of the students who receive meals are from our district, but you don't have to be a South-Western student to stop by one of our 15 distribution sites," Hamrick said.

When school is in session and buildings are open, South-Western serves an average of about 13,000 lunches a day, she said.

The number of meals the district is distributing each day while schools are closed represents about 15% of that number, Hamrick said.

Another project the Naz has offers a way for community members to help people who are homebound during the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 20, the church posted a "Hello Neighbor" flyer on its website and social-media outlets that people could print, fill out with their contact information and attach to a neighbor's door.

The flyer includes a message offering to shop, pick up groceries or run errands if the neighbor is ill, affected by the stay-at-home order or otherwise unable to complete a task alone, Keating said.

"We really don't have a reading of how many people printed out and left the flyers, but we have some good stories from people about how this has given them a chance to make contact with and help a neighbor they hadn't met before," he said.

Some bridges are being built that will continue even after life returns to what had been normal, Keating said.

"The way we're going to get through this, or any challenge, is by showing love and support for one another," he said.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

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