One Coshocton food pantry closes as another tries to expand

·4 min read
Nichole Braxton unpacks boxes from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank at Upper Room Assembly and Worship Center. The church is seeking funds to construct a permanent pantry building with drive-thru access.
Nichole Braxton unpacks boxes from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank at Upper Room Assembly and Worship Center. The church is seeking funds to construct a permanent pantry building with drive-thru access.

COSHOCTON — One food pantry in Coshocton County is cutting back as another looks to continue expansion efforts.

New Life Ministries at 727 S. Seventh St. has ran a monthly food distribution box program for about 20 years. Pastor Mark Granger recently announced they are scaling back to giving Aldi gift cards to those already registered for their food pantry program monthly.

The $30 cards will be distributed from 9 a.m. to noon the third Thursday of each month at the church. For December, the church gave out 198 food boxes benefitting 353 individuals.

"The need is still there, but what we're doing is working smarter, not harder," said Granger's wife, Doris.

Items for the food boxes were through donations to the church. Donations will still be needed for the Aldi cards, Granger said. Monetary donations can be mailed to the church.

Granger said why they recognize the need for food is still in the community he and his congregation can no longer keep up. Granger is recovering from a second stroke and many volunteers for the food pantry program are seniors with their own health issues.

"It gets pretty busy picking stuff up. There were times we unloaded 20,000 pounds of food by hand," Granger said. "I'm not going to kill my health anymore. I asked my doctor how long I have left and he said that depended on me and how I take care of myself."

Granger also said there are more food pantries in the area than when they first started. He hopes those in the community who supported New Life in the past would support the others now. This includes pantries in Newcomerstown, Bladensburg and through Canal Lewisville United Methodist Church, Conesville United Methodist Church and Salvation Army.

Individuals go through the basement of the Upper Room Assembly and Worship Center selecting food from the church's pantry. The church is seeking funds for a permanent building to house the pantry and provide easy drive-thru access.
Individuals go through the basement of the Upper Room Assembly and Worship Center selecting food from the church's pantry. The church is seeking funds for a permanent building to house the pantry and provide easy drive-thru access.

Food items leftover are being distributed to other local food panties, such as the one ran by Upper Room Assembly and Worship Center at 802 Vine St. Pastor Stan Braxton sees the food donation as a passing of the torch. It has been in existence six years and is the largest in the county. He knows more people will turn to them with New Life's food box distribution program ending.

In 2020, the church distributed more than 140,000 pounds of food to 15,033 people in Coshocton County and the surrounding area. It represented more than 435,000 meals. Braxton said they serve people up to a 60-mile radius.

"There's a dire need today more than a week ago or two weeks ago," Braxton said in reference to New Life ending its program. "People are still going to need assistance and we will step in and fill that void as we've done in the past."

Individuals go through boxes containing produce outside Upper Room Assembly and Worship Center during its most recent food pantry day.
Individuals go through boxes containing produce outside Upper Room Assembly and Worship Center during its most recent food pantry day.

In December, Braxton announced a fundraising campaign to purchase an adjacent piece of property and to construct permanent housing for its food pantry.

Currently, food is kept in the church basement and boxes are placed in cars in a drive-thru style. The last distribution was inside because of the weather. People were required to wear masks and many needed help to collect food and take it to their vehicles. The basement is hard for the elderly and disabled to access.

The new building would have space to store food and a covered drive-thru. Braxton said they only raised about a third of the $17,000 sought to purchase the property and the rest was borrowed from a congregation member. They are now seeking funds to erect a structure. The timeline for that depends on how much money comes in from the community, Braxton said.

"If we had the funding to do it all immediately, it would be done now," Braxton said. "As there is a need in the community we're stepping in and filling, we ourselves also have a need because without the support of the community it only limits us in what we can do."

Donations can be mailed to Upper Room Assembly and Worship Center, P.O. Box 923, Coshocton, OH 43812. Online donations can be made at https://tithe.ly/give_new/www/#/tithely/give-one-time/245523?kiosk=1.

Braxton said they are also looking for someone to assist with grant writing.

llhayhur@coshoctontribune.com

@llhayhurst

740-295-3417

This article originally appeared on Coshocton Tribune: One Coshocton food pantry closes as another tries to expand

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