More seeking help from Canal Winchester food pantry as pandemic continues

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Aletha Mullins, director of the Canal Winchester Human Services Community Food Pantry, restocks one of the refrigerators last spring. Mullins said the number of residents using the pantry is climbing again and the pantry is serving about 400 people a month.

When the COVID-19 coronavirus began to spread across central Ohio last spring, Aletha Mullins realized what she was seeing on TV would soon reach the Canal Winchester Human Services Community Food Pantry. 

As the organization’s director, she began to prepare, knowing the need would increase as lockdowns and other health and safety precautions put Ohioans out of work. 

In April, the Canal Winchester pantry assisted 13 new families totaling 26 people, Mullins said. Normally, the pantry might add two or three new families per month. 

“Then we did see a slight decrease in those needing assistance, but the numbers are starting to go back up,” Mullins said. “Clients who no longer are getting extra (unemployment) benefits are coming back to use us.” 

On average, the pantry, at 80 Covenant Way, aids roughly 400 people every month from the Canal Winchester and Bloom-Carroll school districts, Lithopolis and underserved rural areas of Fairfield County. 

According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau survey taken between Oct. 28 and Nov. 9, one in eight Americans reported that they sometimes or often didn’t have enough food to eat. That number increased to more than one in six adults in households with children. 

And the increased demand is coming during the holidays. 

For Thanksgiving, the Canal Winchester food pantry served 240 people through a partnership with the Meijer Foundation and Canal Winchester schools, Mullins said. 

“We provided a turkey, milk, eggs and butter to all of our clients, and they also shopped through the pantry,” she said. 

Now Canal Winchester Human Services is in the middle of its adopt-a-family Christmas program. 

Last year, 208 children received gifts through community donations. 

As of Dec. 1, the program had received applications for 161 children, with more expected in the coming weeks, Mullins said. 

“Businesses take kids, churches take kids, families will adopt a child,” she said. “When a family adopts a child, it entails purchasing socks and shoes and outfits and pajamas and three things from the child’s wish list.” 

New this year, Canal Winchester Human Services is helping children connect with Santa Claus over the telephone to raise funds for the agency. Each call costs $10. 

From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 15, 17 and 18, children can speak to Santa. 

“I have seen it done in other communities and we were trying to think of different things to do,” said Jill Amos, a Canal Winchester City Council member who helped organize the event with Mullins.  

“We want to personalize the call, so parents should include the child’s name, grade, gifts they are receiving, pets and other information,” Amos said. 

All proceeds from the calls will help Canal Winchester Human Services, which also offers senior transportation and emergency assistance. 

For information or to sign up for calls to Santa or to adopt a family, visit cwhumanservices.org or call 614-834-4700.

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