by Nicole Rosselot
South Hills Lend-A-Hand food pantry rose to the many challenges presented by COVID-19, serving up to 75 families per month at the peak of the pandemic.
The pantry, which serves Broadview Heights, Seven Hills and Independence, saw an increase in the number of families needing food assistance, but fortunately, this was matched with an increase in donations from the community.
Lend-A-Hand Coordinator Karen Atwell said residents were dropping off gift cards for Wal-Mart, Costco and Sam’s club as well as non-perishable foods. “It was just wonderful! We were pleasantly surprised, because we didn’t really know what to expect [when the pandemic hit],” she said.
The giving spirit continued with each round of stimulus checks. “We had people sending us their $1,200 [stimulus money] to buy food [for the pantry]. The generosity in our area has been really tremendous,” Atwell said.
Donations from residents helped fill the gap left by the cancellation of the National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive and Broadview Heights Lions Club Bloodview Haunted House.
“Our biggest food drive of the year is the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. They had to cancel both last year and this year,” Atwell explained. “Our biggest fundraiser is the Bloodview Haunted House. They give us between $8,000 and $10,000 but, of course, we couldn’t have a haunted house last year.”
However, the community stepped up.
“The blessing was the $1,200 in donations that kept our coffers up,” she said.
Moving forward, Atwell said the food pantry is well-positioned to support those in need.
Two weeks of every month, Church of the Assumption in Broadview Heights helps fill the shelves at Lend-A-Hand with non-perishable food donated by parishioners. Broadview Heights Lions Club intends to open Bloodview Haunted House this Fall and helped organize a drive-through version of the Empty Bowls fundraiser in May.
The Empty Bowls fundraiser, co-sponsored by Broadview Heights Lions Club and the Kiwanis Club of Brecksville, raised over $5,000 for Lend-A-Hand and the Brecksville Pantry.
In addition, Lend-A-Hand was recently the first local food pantry adopted by the Meijer store in Seven Hills.
“Fred Meijer’s [the co-founder of Meijer] first priority was giving back to the community and providing hunger relief,” Atwell said.
Meijer’s program is called Simply Give, and shoppers purchase $10 gift cards at checkout – in the store and online – that are then donated to a local food pantry.
“We will find out at the end of July how we did after our first quarter with Meijer’s Simply Give program,” Atwell said.
Lend-A-Hand is the beneficiary of the Simply Give program through at least Oct. 2.
South Hills Lend-A-Hand food pantry is located in Broadview Heights, across from the police station. Food distribution takes place on the third Saturday of the month. Those needing assistance should call and register with the food bank in advance at 440-526-0514. ∞