Editors note: This is the first part in a series explaining the mission and people behind the Fairborn FISH Food Pantry. The series will continue in our next publication slated for Friday, Nov. 29.
FAIRBORN — What started as a service that assisted people with babysitting, transportation, housework, grocery delivery and the like fed more than 21,000 local individuals last year.
The Fairborn FISH Food Pantry first planted its roots in 1969 with place-cards that citizens would put in their window if they needed help, according to a newsletter provided by FISH Director Beth Player. She said FISH later changed to just a few individuals who would volunteer their time to assist locals in need. The food at that time was stored in volunteers garages, and would be picked up and distributed nightly.
As the need grew, so did the organization.
It distributed more than 400,000 pounds of food in 2018. FISH to date in 2019 has contributed more than $45,000 in client assistance with items such as rent, lodging and utility bills.
FISH Manager Jane Doorley shared that an average of 70 to 100 families are assisted each week by the Fairborn FISH Food Pantry.
“We don’t just give food,” said volunteer Patty Westerwelle. “We help families with referrals, [and with items including] diapers and cribs — it gives them hope.”
Fifty-seven volunteers keep the operation in motion, including those found inside the pantry and those behind the scenes on the phones. Donations come from organizations such as the Food Bank of South West Ohio and Fairborn City Schools, as well as Fairborn businesses such as Kroger, Pizza Hut, Panera Bread, Fairborn City Schools, Bob Evans, City BBQ and Speedway.
The facility is provided by First Baptist Church in Fairborn, and just next-door is a clothing closet for those in need.
A number of private groups and individuals are involved with the mission as well, such as the group who makes homemade sleeping bags and sleeping pads, and the couple who creates 20 weekly “birthday bags” — including items such as cake mix, candles and more, to be given away. Local gardeners have also been known to donate their fresh produce during the summer months.
Volunteer Adrian Davoli said he recognizes that some of the neighbors he encounters at FISH are in desperate situations, but added that he hopes the food pantry provides them with feelings of being loved, accepted and nurtured.
“God is at the center … We pray with them, and assure them they’re not alone,” Davoli said.
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.