Gahanna Residents In Need's lunch program feeds body, spirit
Two longtime volunteers for Gahanna Residents In Need's Summer Lunch Club point to the Bible in explaining their passion for the program.
GRIN began providing summer lunches for students and families in the Gahanna-Jefferson schools on June 1 at Goshen Lane Elementary School, 340 Goshen Lane, and Gahanna Middle School West, 350 N. Stygler Road.
Joanna Briley said she started volunteering with New Life Church at Summer Lunch Club when she was 19.
That was 12 years ago.
"It's amazing," Briley said. "We love to show God's love to people and what better way to do that than with a hot lunch?"
Jayne Elgin of Mifflin Presbyterian Church said she has been volunteering at Summer Lunch Club for eight years.
"My motivation is in feeding the hungry, Matthew 25:35-40," she said, which includes the words, "for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in."
Briley said she will never forget her first year of volunteering, when a family informed her they had eaten out of a trash bin for dinner most nights.
"Last year, a grandmother told us for the first time that her granddaughter said she was full," she said.
As local outreach coordinator, Briley said her job is to coordinate the menu and volunteers for the week.
Before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, volunteers in all roles numbered from 20 to 25, with six or seven volunteers serving at one time.
The volunteers' jobs include shoppers, cooks, food servers and those who clean up.
"It takes a village," Briley said. "We are looking forward to this year, as we feel this year is a bigger need than ever before."
She said she would highly recommend volunteering for Summer Lunch Club.
"It has opened my eyes and perspective to the huge need around me, and I know it will for (others), as well," she said.
Elgin said she started volunteering to serve the meals at one of the locations.
"Then three years ago, my husband, Rod, and I started to work with Phil Koppel, who has been working with summer lunch from the beginning," she said.
Koppel does the administrative part in getting volunteers while Elgin and her husband lead the kitchen at Mifflin Presbyterian Church, preparing meals with volunteers assisting.
"Everyone should have a safe place to be given food," she said. "GRIN is a wonderful asset to our community. Our summer lunch is under the GRIN program to serve those in our community with food sensitivity."
Elgin said GRIN has established COVID-19 guidelines to follow in food preparation and serving.
"It is a privilege to be involved in this mission and I would encourage others in our community to step up and serve," she said.
Beth Bentley, GRIN program director, said she has the weeks of Aug. 10 and 17 available for a church, group or business to provide and box food for the week. Anyone who is interested should call her at 614-214-4747, the agency's number.
Bentley said Summer Lunch Club served more than 5,151 meals last year, and the need is greater this year.
Bentley said the program would provide a hot grab-and-go lunch for each person from noon to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through Aug. 21 at Goshen Lane Elementary School and Gahanna Middle School West.
Residents of the Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District are eligible with no registration required.
Bentley said guests would be entered into a spreadsheet the first day they attend and need to provide their full names, address and phone number. She said it would be helpful to bring photograph identification.
Parents aren't required to attend for their children to receive a lunch.
Walkers or drive-up participants are welcome, Bentley said.
"We ask for everyone's patience as we work through our new summer-lunch protocol," she said. "We will be set up outside the buildings under a tent and guests will need to line up, be signed in and get their meals to go."
Bentley said GRIN has been especially busy during the pandemic, and all food pantry events have switched to a drive-thru, no-touch model through August.
That includes pantry hours available by appointment by calling GRIN.
Two Pantry Refresh events have been added each month, from 10 a.m. to noon the second and fourth Saturdays.
"This is a no-appointment event for Gahanna-Jefferson school district residents in need," Bentley said. "We are providing a bag of produce and a bag of staples (cereal, protein, sides) to help families get through the month."
She said families may visit the pantry once a month for a drive-thru appointment and two additional times for the drive-thru Pantry Refresh.
"We have experienced an increase of approximately 50% in the number of meals provided," Bentley said. "The Gahanna community has been very generous with both food and financial donations, which has allowed us to meet the increased demand."