Food pantry meets need in Nelson, Garrettsville

By Rachel Hagenbaugh | Staff Writer Published:

The Nelson Garrettsville Community Cupboard, a food bank that has served non-perishable foods, toiletries and other necessities to more than 150 families, will be celebrating its one-year anniversary Feb. 27.

About a year ago, Michele Elias and her husband, Michael Elias, began to realize that some of their Nelson Township neighbors were struggling financially and wanted to help. The couple attended an event at the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, where they found out the poverty level in Portage County was rising.

"When we heard all the bad news, we decided that the thing that we should do to help our neighbors the most was to have a food program," Michele Elias said.

In the past year, the NGCC has held several fundraisers including food drives, two spaghetti dinners and Chinese auctions and a "Plant a Row for the Hungry" campaign where gardeners grow and extra row of produce to donate to the cupboard.

"When we first started this, we were starting from scratch and didn't really know what we were doing," Elias said. "Now, we're serving on average about 70 families each month."

The NGCC is a member-agency of the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, which means it is able to purchase items from them at a reduced cost when the community cupboard is low on resources. Several businesses and organization have also donated money and canned goods to the food bank including the local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, the Garrettsville school district, Game Emporium and the Knights of Columbus.

"Almost all of the organizations and clubs in the area have donated somehow, whether its foods or funds," Elias said.

With the recent donation of a small refrigerator and freezer, the food bank is able to offer eggs, cheese and frozen ground meat and ground turkey.

"I've supported it 110 percent," said Nelson Township trustee Joseph Leonard. "We definitely needed it, and we have yet to turn anybody away."

The cupboard is open Mondays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. To qualify for the program, applicants must bring photo identification and proof of residency in the James A. Garfield School District. The amount of food a family receives is based on the size of the family.

Elias said the NGCC considers itself a client-choice pantry. The client is given a shopping list with about 60 items on it. After the client chooses what they want, a volunteer finds the items and takes them to the client's vehicle.

The NGCC has about 25 volunteers, including students from Hiram College and people from the Nelson Garrettsville Senior Social Club.

"All we want to do is thank the community for their tremendous amount of support that they've shown us over the past year," Elias said. "We're excited that we've made it through the first year and we're ready for another great year."

The NGCC is located at 9415 S.R. 305, Garrettsville, on the northeast corner of Nelson Circle behind Isaac Mills Bakery.

The NGCC's current location is on a one-year rent free contract. The community cupboard is looking to movie into a long-term, low-rent facility with more space. One of the possible locations is the old township maintenance garage on the southwest corner of Nelson Circle.

A decision will be made about whether the building can be leased to the NGCC during a trustees meeting at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Nelson Township Community House, 11639 Windham Parkman Road, Garrettsville.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1123 or rhagenbaugh@recordpub.com

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