Grant to allow 'necessity bags' program to run through 2020 in Clintonville

Jim Fischer
ThisWeek
Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center

A Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resource Center program providing essentials to Franklin County seniors will continue, courtesy of a grant from the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging. 

This funding will allow the "necessity bags" program, started earlier this year, to continue through the end of 2020, said Christine Happel, program director for Village in the Ville, a program of the CRC that serves local senior citizens. 

Housed in the back of the CRC’s food pantry on Lakeview Avenue, the Necessity Bags program accepts donations from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank and other community and corporate partners. Volunteers assemble bags of essential items to be delivered by volunteer drivers. 

“Our experience with having the food pantry and a network of volunteers allowed us to spearhead this initiative,” Happel said. 

The program was started in the early stages of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, supported by funding from Columbus City Council. Happel said she coordinated the program with Katie White, director of Age-Friendly Columbus, a program housed at Ohio State University's College of Social Work. 

“We knew there was a need countywide,” Happel said. “Our first thought was to try and identify and reach older adults that were not already connected to a service.” 

The bags are delivered weekly. 

“I enjoy making the deliveries, having even just a brief, safe contact with seniors and others confined to their homes because of a disability or medical issue,” said Heidi Klingler, who had volunteered with CRC before participating in the "necessity bags" program. “I could see the need, and I wanted to be a part of it. The pandemic affected my job situation so I signed up to drive.” 

Klingler said serving close to home – the CRC is a couple blocks from where she lives – and also in the broader community makes this volunteer work especially rewarding. 

“I’ve seen how isolated some places are, from grocery stores or from transportation,” Klingler said. “Food scarcity is real and an even bigger issue because of the virus. It’s widespread.” 

Happel said offering services beyond Clintonville is not new to the CRC, which sponsors Personal Finance and Kinship Care for older adults and their caregivers beyond the neighborhood. She also said programs similar to Village in the Ville exist in five other areas of the city, creating a network that can identify shared needs. 

“These programs are great at recognizing when the community has a need and working to meet it,” Happel said. 

The connections and relationships that result from making deliveries mean the program meets not only the physical needs of those served but also addresses mental and emotional needs. 

“Even just a little time spent chatting is appreciated. I’ve never had a bad experience,” said Klingler, who plans to deliver bags as long as the program is active. “Plus sometimes you can identify if they have other needs.” 

“What we hear from folks is that they appreciate not just the items but the contact, that someone was seeing and acknowledging and valuing them,” Happel said. 

Happel said the program may pause after the first of the year for assessment and determining how to make it sustainable. 

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