WARM Rotary holiday food drive helps feed hungry as needs rise

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Organizers of the Westerville Area Resource Ministry and Rotary holiday food drive are hoping residents pitch in to help end hunger by donating 30,000 pounds of groceries Dec. 5.

Food insecurity has increased with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to WARM officials, and the big holiday food drive of the year will help sustain them. 

Volunteers will canvass Westerville neighborhoods between Nov. 27 and Dec. 2 to drop flyers and bags for residents to fill for the Dec. 5 WARM/Rotary holiday food drive.

“Like every other food bank, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the numbers coming to get food,” said Pam Aylor, WARM associate in development and communication and chairman of the 18th annual food drive, which is sponsored by the Kroger Co. “We’ve seen so many new clients.”

In 2019, WARM helped 258 new clients for the entire year, whereas the first six month of 2020 brought 338 new clients, she said. 

The total number of people served by WARM in the first six months of 2019 was 1,351 compared to 2,209 for the first six months of 2020, according to Aylor.

“This year the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively impacted individuals and families in many ways,” said Scott Marier, WARM executive director.

He said new clients coupled with existing clients needing help have resulted in an overall increase of 49% compared to the same time period last year, with 399,742 total meals provided in 2019 compared to 594,719 this year.

“Thanks to the outstanding and generous support from our community, WARM has been able to respond and meet this growing need,” Marier said. “Together we’re all working to make it through and beyond the pandemic.”

Aylor said WARM’s goal is to provide 400 Thanksgiving Blessing meals this year compared to 298 last year.

She said the city of Westerville offered all of April as a utility holiday for residents, and those who were able were encouraged to pay it forward by donating to the charity of their choice. 

“People sent in checks, though we don’t know if it was from the utility holiday,” Aylor said. 

She said flyers with grocery bags will be delivered by teams to 14,000 Westerville homes between Nov. 27 and Dec. 2 for the food drive. 

Residents are asked to fill the bag with nonperishable donations and leave them on their front porches no later than 8:30 a.m. Dec. 5 for pickup by volunteers.

The flyer to be distributed notes that the most needed items include canned fruit, condiments, spaghetti sauce, canned potatoes, sugar, flour, coffee and personal-care items.

“We keep track how much food comes in by the pound,” Aylor said. “That’s how we know how successful it is. Last year, we collected 28,351 pounds. We were sitting good when the pandemic hit. That has been depleted a while back. We’re relying on financial contributions.” 

She said this year’s goal is to collect 30,000 pounds of food in one day.

In addition to pickup at residences, contributions may be taken to collection stations between 9 a.m. and noon Dec. 5.

Those stations are Annehurst Elementary School, 925 W. Main St.; the north lot at Westerville Central High School, 7118 Mount Royal Ave.; the west lot at Westerville North High School, 950 County Line Road; and the west lot at WARM, 150 Heatherdown Drive. 

An August newsletter from WARM noted that in entering the second half of 2020 with uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, the organization “humbly seeks additional funding to help plan for the future to continue to adapt and serve those in need.” 

To donate and for more information, go to warmwesterville.org.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla