NORTH ROYALTON – As volunteers handle the Thanksgiving food distribution outside, Diane Bulkowki, food bank coordinator, surveys the bare cupboards.

Usually stacked two or three rows high with canned and boxed goods, the shelves have just one row or are even empty in some spots.

But, Bulkowski has faith.

“The community always pulls through and provides what we need,” she said.

Debra Burrows, outreach specialist for the city’s Office on Aging, admits it is worrisome looking at the shelves but knows from years of experience that this community always takes care of its own.

“Our numbers are growing and the food is not. I am a little worried about Christmas. But, I am humbled and grateful we were able to fulfill the need for Thanksgiving,” she said. “It always works out, and I know it will this time too.”

Outside, several councilmen and residents were loading Thanksgiving food boxes into residents’ cars.

Council President Larry Antoskiewicz, Ward 2 Councilman Gary Petrusky, Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw, Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck, Ward 5 Councilman Steve Muller and Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris loaded box after box into vehicles one by one as residents arrived at the food bank Nov. 21. Norm Pawlowski, a resident, lent council a hand too.

Wally Ohler, veterans liaison for the city, made deliveries to the homes of those unable to pick up their food. Two police officers helped with traffic.

This year a total of 146 boxes were given, a significant number. Burrows said if the trend holds true, the Christmas distribution will be at least 30 percent larger than Thanksgiving was.

Last Thanksgiving, the food bank gave 80 food boxes and 160 at Christmas. So this Thanksgiving was almost as large as the last Christmas distribution was.

Food items in need this year include instant mashed potatoes; canned sweet potatoes; boxed stuffing mix; canned pasta sauce; canned pasta; canned corn, green beans and another vegetable; canned soup; canned gravy; canned fruit; canned pie filling; canned cranberry sauce; gelatin and pudding; peanut butter; jelly; boxed pasta; boxed macaroni and cheese; canned tuna; muffin, cornbread and biscuit mix; cookie and cake mix; canned and boxed dinners; and cereal.

Laundry detergent, toilet paper, shampoo and infant diapers are also included in boxes.

In addition to the box of non-perishable food items, the food bank strives to give each family a food gift card to purchase perishable items, completing their meal. Having gift cards to grocers in the amount of $10 is helpful, Willey said. Gift cards or money to purchase turkey and ham for the families are also appreciated.

Monetary donations are also encouraged as they are used to provide the gift cards and purchase any food items that are lacking as the Christmas distribution, which is Dec. 19, approaches.

In addition to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter food distributions, the food bank also provides emergency food boxes weekly to families who find themselves on hard times. As of the end of September, the food bank had given 163 emergency boxes. That’s about four per week.

“Today reminds us that the economic recovery has not lifted up everyone. There are still far too many neighbors in need,” Marnecheck said. “I’m thankful for the generosity displayed today in making sure nearly 150 families will have a delicious Thanksgiving Day dinner, especially those who gave in secret and don’t ask for praise or recognition. We have a very generous community.”

Langshaw hopes to see that generosity carry into next month’s program.

“The shelves are getting bare, so if anyone would like to make a donation to restock the shelves, this is a great time between now and Dec. 15 when they begin packaging the Christmas food boxes. There is always a need,” he said.

Antoskiewicz thanked residents for their Thanksgiving donation. He knows we haven’t seen the last of the community’s generosity and is confident the shelves will be full again in no time.

“We always continue to see the generosity of the North Royalton community, especially during the holiday season. It’s always heartwarming to see the consistent regulars who reach out to the food bank and reach out to their neighbors that are in need,” he said.

Ohler calls the people who donate North Royalton’s band of angels. He too is confident these angels will save the day again come Christmas.

“When someone is in need, especially hungry, we have to address it. We can’t let families go without, and we want to make sure children have. This is about going out and taking care of families and showing them we care until hunger is not a problem in this community,” he said. “I’m honored to live in a city that reaches into the hearts of those in need to show that we care.”

Residents in need of a Christmas food box can contact the office on aging to apply. A photo identification, a current utility bill with address for proof of residency and proof of income are required. In order to be eligible, income cannot exceed $20,597 for a single-person household; $27,877 for a family of two; $35,157 for a family of three and $42,437 for a family of four.

To donate, contact Judy Willey at 440-582-6333 or by email at jwilley@northroyalton.org or e-mail Debra Burrows, outreach specialist, at dburrows@northroyalton.org. Those interested in the Adopt-A-Family Program, which provides Christmas gifts for families in need, should also contact Burrows.

Gift cards and checks, made payable to the North Royalton Kiwanis Food Bank Trust, can be sent to the North Royalton Office on Aging, 13500 Ridge Road, North Royalton, OH, 44133.

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