Pickerington Food Pantry: Local couple's $10,000 donation eases budget concerns

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Vanessa Niekamp, executive director of the Pickerington Food Bank, is shown at the pantry Jan. 6. Niekamp said a $10,000 donation from a local couple will offset the 20% reduction in grant funding from the United Way of Fairfield County.

The Pickerington Food Pantry will ring in the new year in a high key after receiving a $10,000 donation from a local couple. 

It was something of a Christmas miracle when Pickerington Food Pantry Executive Director Vanessa Niekamp was contacted by a local couple a few days before the holiday. 

Roughly 24 hours before hearing from them, she had been notified by United Way of Fairfield County that a trickle-down result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic would be a 20% reduction in grant funding for the pantry – a $6,600 cut – for 2021.   

The Pickerington couple, who wish to remain anonymous, own a business in Pickerington. They already had decided they wanted to donate 33% of their business profits to area charitable organizations. 

After seeing Facebook posts and a news article in ThisWeek Pickerington Times-Sun about the food pantry’s ongoing challenges to help people in need, particularly amid the pandemic, the couple decided to donate a portion of that 33% to the pantry. 

Niekamp has been the pantry’s executive director since November 2017, and she checked the organization’s financial records, which go back to 2011. 

“That’s more the size of a grant we might see from an organization such as the Fairfield County Foundation,” Niekamp said. “We have never received a donation from an individual or family of that magnitude. 

“It’s a significant contribution from an individual or family. Typically, (when) people make contributions to the food pantry, they’re coming to an event and donating $100 or less.” 

The donors said they were compelled to donate to the food pantry because through an arrangement with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, it receives $11 worth of food for every $1 it spends. 

“We are blessed because of God,” the couple said in a statement. “God makes it all happen. It’s all Him. 

“He’s the one that gives us our clients and grows our business. He’s the one that lays these things on our hearts to do. We felt like God wanted us to use our finances in this way. 

"We felt God was saying the food pantry is in need, especially with COVID."  

Niekamp said the donation will enable the pantry to buy the retail equivalent of $110,000 of food. It also essentially will allow the pantry to provide 2,858 meals for a family of four. 

“They are basically feeding two-and-a-half families of four for an entire year,” Niekamp said.   

The donation would have covered 3% of 102,105 meals the pantry served in 2020, Niekamp added. 

While those figures show the pantry still will need to solicit substantial contributions in 2021, she said, the couple’s donation is a “hugely significant” building block for the coming year.” 

“I would never want to discourage even someone who wants to send us $5,” Niekamp said. “That $5 is really almost two meals for a family. When you think about this donation, with this $10,000 you’re feeding multiple families for months.

“This kind of contribution is so significant. We are very grateful. 

“This definitely sets the food pantry up this year to not struggle and to start the year off on a good path to beginning ... and meeting the needs of families.” 

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekNate