NORTH ROYALTON – The community pulled together to make the first holiday food pantry distribution since switching locations a smooth success.

On Nov. 19, Royal Redeemer Lutheran Church, city officials, community volunteers and Kiwanis Club members gathered to conduct the Thanksgiving food box distribution for families in need. It was the first distribution since the city’s food bank, a longstanding collaboration with the Kiwanis, merged with Royal Redeemer’s pantry forming the North Royalton Food Pantry Partnership with the Kiwanis and city of North Royalton.

There were a total of 145 food boxes given: 87 for families in need, 37 for seniors at the Deaconess Perry apartments, 10 for veterans and 11 deliveries to shut-ins, representing roughly 250 North Royalton residents.

It’s a labor of love uniting various facets of the community.

City officials helped with the heavy lifting moving boxes and loading cars – Mayor Bob Stefanik, Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell, Ward 2 Councilman Gary Petrusky and Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris. Resident Norm Pawlowski assisted, as did John Raiter from the South Cuyahoga Sportsmens Association in North Royalton.

Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw, his son Henry and Gary Lacinski made deliveries.

Kiwanis member John Burke and Debra Burrows, office on aging community outreach specialist, greeted residents and verified their information as they picked up their food boxes.

Church members and volunteers were on hand too.

“This is an amazing blessing,” said Kat Lacinski, Royal Redeemer’s food pantry supervisor, her eyes filling with tears as she surveyed the donations and watched volunteers load cars with the Thanksgiving dinners.

Nearly every family received a turkey too.

“People are amazingly generous. Need is need. It may start as food. They come in, we talk. I had one client say, ‘I haven’t been hugged in a year,’” Lacinski said.

Though still in transition, the merger has been a smooth changeover.

“Because there has been a change in locations, we are getting a working system in place, but the help has been overwhelmingly great from the city, our congregation, other congregations. Regardless of denomination, everyone comes out to help,” she said.

Stefanik said he is pleased so far with the performance.

“This went great. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate but having the distribution indoors at Royal Redeemer with the drive-through was a better system and volunteers could stay somewhat dry,” he said.

Council President Larry Antoskiewicz said it is a relief to see such a smooth transition.

“This has been very positive, and I’m sure down the road, things will go in an even more positive direction to serve the residents that need the help,” he said.

Kasaris said he was blown away by the generosity of the community.

“To be able to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to a family who otherwise would not have one, says a lot about the generous people who donated food in our community,” he said. “Having the giveaway at Royal Redeemer was a huge success and a good partnership between the city and private charity.”

Langshaw said this was his son’s first time helping, and it made a lasting impression on the 9-year-old.

“This is so important because both my son and I are very thankful to live in such a caring community. He will never forget all the great joy we brought to all those in need and wants to do it again soon,” he said.

Burrows said families are still needed to adopt other families in need of Christmas gifts. All the gifts have to be in by Dec. 9. Those interested can call Judy Willey, director of the office on aging, at 440-582-6333.

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