NORTH ROYALTON – As Debra Burrows, outreach specialist for the North Royalton Office on Aging, sat beside Geneva Prince, assistant governor of the Rotary Club, enjoying eggs and sausage and warm conversation at the Mayor’s business breakfast, she had no idea what Prince was about to give her as a gift from the club to the community’s food bank.

Toward the breakfast’s end, Burrows slipped out to head back to work. Mayor Bob Stefanik stopped her on the way out.

“The mayor says to me, ‘you can’t leave’, and I thought I was in trouble,” Burrows giggled. “He told me Geneva wanted to give me something. I’m thinking, ‘she sat by me the entire breakfast and never mentioned anything’.”

Prince was simply waiting for the right time. That’s when she handed Burrows a check for $1,250 for the food bank. Burrows was speechless. She looked down at the check and back at Prince a few times.

“Wow, I had no idea. Wow. Thank you so much,” she said to Prince. “I didn’t know what was happening, but this is incredible.”

It’s a perfect example of the club’s motto, “service above self,” which is exactly what members strive to live by day after day.

“We always feel the need is very great for food here,” Prince said, explaining the gift. “The Rotary being the No. 1 service club in the world, we work very hard to give back to the community.”

Money raised by the club at the Flavor of Strongsville event is split to help both North Royalton and Broadview Heights residents.

North Royalton businesses, clubs and residents must truly be feeling the Christmas spirit as the North Royalton Food Bank has been blessed with several sizable cash donations over the past few weeks. Not only from the Rotary Club but also a check for nearly $3,200 raised by employees at Laszeray Technology, LLC, a North Royalton business. The Cleaning Authority and the B Spot hosted a joint event and brought in $700 last month.

It’s not solely businesses and clubs. A resident recently said she wanted to make a donation, and then handed over a generous check for $1,000. St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church is another big donor.

“The generosity and warmth of the residents of North Royalton is just outstanding. It’s unbelievable. There’s been several cash donations provided from service organizations, businesses, churches, residents. It’s not uncommon to get checks for $350, $250, $100,” said Judy Willey, director of the office on aging.

And it’s definitely needed.

Burrows said the food bank has experienced an increase in clients by 25 percent over just last year. It’s a significant jump, and though these donations are hefty, the need is always there and never goes away, it only intensifies.

Some of the money was used for the food bank’s Christmas food box distribution Dec. 20. Cash was used to put toward gift cards that accompany every holiday box. Families use these cards to purchase perishable groceries or turkey or ham. Money raised by the food bank is also used to buy any non-perishables the pantry might be lacking.

Residents have to fall below a certain income threshold to be eligible for assistance. This Christmas 166 families, representing 346 people, qualified and received a Christmas food box. Of those, 55 families were also “adopted” by other families and businesses that purchased Christmas gifts for the children so they had something to open on Christmas morning.

Food bank volunteers and neighbors gave of their time at the distribution. City officials were also on hand including Debra Burrows, outreach specialist for the office on aging; Judy Willey, director of the office on aging; Service Director Nick Cinquepalmi; Bonnie Becka, office manager for the building department; Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw; Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck; and Mayor Bob Stefanik.

Stefanik and Marnecheck teamed up to load food boxes and gifts into residents’ vehicles during the distribution, meanwhile Langshaw helped deliver to those who couldn’t venture out.

“Today’s my birthday,” Langshaw smiled. “I can’t think of a better way to start the day then by helping other people.”

Aside from the holiday boxes, emergency food boxes are given weekly, sometimes daily, year-round to help those in need, so this need never goes away.

“We take a good chunk out for the holiday, and it comes back to us 10 fold. But the need is always there. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is,” Burrows said. “People say that it can’t happen in North Royalton that people can’t be struggling here, but it is happening. We were quite surprised by the increase (in families) too.”

With the distribution over, the food bank’s shelves are extremely depleted, despite this growing request for emergency food boxes. So, it’s not too late to give. Anyone who still wishes to help out can either send in perishable goods or a cash donation.

Items in high demand include peanut butter and jelly, canned tuna, cereal and boxed dinners.

The complete list includes instant mashed potatoes; canned pasta sauce; canned pasta; canned vegetables and fruit; canned soup; gelatin or pudding; boxed pasta; boxed macaroni and cheese; muffin, cornbread or biscuit mix and cookie or cake mix. Aside from food, laundry detergent, toilet paper, shampoo and infant diapers are also needed.

“Every little bit helps and is truly appreciated,” Willey said.

To donate contact Judy Willey at 440-582-6333 or by e-mail at jwilley@northroyalton.org or e-mail Debra Burrows at dburrows@northroyalton.org. Checks can be made payable to the North Royalton-Kiwanis Food Bank Trust and mailed to the North Royalton Office on Aging, 13500 Ridge Road, North Royalton, OH, 44133.

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