The Lord’s Pantry is Columbus Grove’s local food bank created and organized by six churches in the area. (Staff Photo / Josh Ellerbrock)
By: Josh Ellerbrock
COLUMBUS GROVE - For some, giving thanks for the food that shows up on the dinner table is just part of a yearly holiday. For others, it's a major part of their job.In the middle of Columbus Grove, a two-story yellow house on Sycamore St. shelters the Lord's Pantry. And inside, Linda Crouch is giving thanks for the food that shows up on other people's dinner tables because of a giving community.
"I never knew I could be this passionate about it, honestly," Crouch said. "I'm not going to have some child go to bed hungry."
The Lord's Pantry is Columbus Grove's local food bank created and organized by six churches in the area (St. Anthony's Catholic Church, St. John's United Methodist Church, the First Presbyterian Church, Columbus Grove Christian Church, the Church of the Good Shepard and Vaunghsville United Methodist Church) back in Feb. of 1982.
Since then, it's location has jumped around until it found its home at 205 W. Sycamore St. - a property given to the organization by the local Union Bank who paid off its yearly mortgage as a form of donation.
Now, the food bank serves 50 to 60 families a month by giving out multiple bags of groceries that include canned goods, frozen meat and produce when it is available. Crouch hopes to expand the number served by better communicating the pantry's purpose and location to those who could use the extra help.
"I think we could potentially touch a lot more families and individuals out there," Crouch said. "That's why we're here. There's no shame in needing help."
Crouch's first goal is to post bulletins at local laundry mats, grocery stores and the library to get word out to some of the populace about the organization. Crouch is also willing to help those who can't make it out to the food pantry due to time restraints or physical disabilities.
"There are people who can't make it in, and I want to help them," Crouch said.
Most of the current families served by the food bank are long-term customers who are working low-income jobs and need the extra support. Others include the elderly and those with physical disabilities that may have problems working full-time.
Crouch first started working as co-director to the Lord's Pantry after seeing a call for help in her local church's bulletin.
"I had this gut-punch sensation and knew that God wanted me to step up. So far, it has worked out pretty good," she said.
Crouch has now volunteered for the position for the last five years. Before, she worked as a supervisor for the Ford Motor Company. Since she started at the food bank, Crouch has been behind organizing the pantry into a system of shelves instead of the haphazard food allocation that had been the custom before. Her other duties at the pantry include cleaning the property, stocking shelves and balancing the budget.
"You need to have faith no matter how the bank account looks like," Crouch said. "It becomes a balancing act. You have to be wise in what you do - in what you purchase, how much you purchase."
Crouch's position, however, requires more than those basic skills. Much of it requires a mindset of understanding with those who the food bank serves, she said. Whenever customers come in, she makes an effort to show that she cares by smiling, encouraging and praying for them, she said.
"Sometimes, their emotional needs are more than their need for food," Crouch said.
The Lord's Pantry is currently maintained by donations by the local community in the form of money and food items. The busiest time of the year for the food bank is on St. Patrick's Day when the community hosts a food drive which coincides with the local boy scout's food drive. Truckloads of food are brought to the Lord's Pantry where Crouch and other volunteers spend a few days sorting and organizing through the community's goodwill.
"That's a biggy. It pretty much buries us," Crouch said. "That's a good thing."
Non-food items such as personal hygiene items are often donated by local businesses through the Columbus Grove Chamber of Commerce. Crouch repays the generosity by being a stalwart supporter of those businesses by visiting those businesses when buying for the Lord's Pantry.
"I'm a bulldog when it comes to supporting a local business even if its cheaper somewhere else," Crouch said.
To apply for help from the food pantry, those interested just need to visit and fill out a form. Local residency must be proven by a piece of mail, such as a utility bill. The Lord's Pantry is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Crouch can also be contacted in case of an emergency at 419-659-2516.
"We are not going to deny someone food," Crouch said. "Hardship can happen to any of us."