River Award-Winning Food Pantry Feeds Community Members In Need

At Under One Roof Food Pantry, dozens of volunteers, including Deno (left) and Jane Music, work hard to provide meals for nearly 200 clients each month. MIRROR PHOTO BY KRISTI FISH

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Each month, dozens of volunteers help pass out hundreds of groceries to families in need through the Under One Roof Food Pantry.

For those efforts, the pantry is recognized as the River Award winner for the Maumee Chamber of Commerce’s 49th annual Hometown Hero Awards.

What started as a ministry through St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Maumee quickly expanded as a joint effort between several organizations, explained volunteer Jane Music.

“St. Paul’s belongs to Maumee Churches United, so it was decided to go to one of the meetings and ask if there would be any other churches interested in joining us in this ministry,” she recalled.

Currently, in addition to St. Paul’s, Calvary Church, Cass Road Baptist Church, First Church of Christ Scientist, First Pres Maumee and St. Joseph Catholic Church are partnered in the effort.

The food pantry is stationed at St. Paul’s, and members of each church serve on the advisory committee, provide volunteers and host a yearly food drive.

“We usually have between 40 and 45 volunteers, and I would say most of the volunteers work about four to six hours per month,” Jane said.

Jane and her husband, Deno, however, dedicate a significant amount of their time to the cause.

“Deno and Jane’s leadership in organizing, supporting and reaching out to volunteers and funders plays a crucial role in sustaining and expanding the program’s reach,” said Linda Fayerweather in her nomination.

The two are at the food pantry nearly every day helping with various tasks, including stocking shelves, coordinating volunteers and opening the shop for customers.

“I would consider it a full-time job. I’m there every day, for at least an hour or two, sometimes eight,” Deno said. “It’s very time-consuming, but it is well worth it.”

Jane has been a volunteer for nearly 15 years and Deno has been helping out since 2016, and the two have become friends with their clients, celebrating the good times and supporting them through the bad.

Each person who walks through the doors of the pantry has been appreciative not only of the resources provided, but also for the support and kindness of the volunteers, Jane said.

“People don’t go to food pantries because they like to, but because they have to,” she said. “But everyone always has such a good, kind attitude.”

Over the years, they have met hundreds of clients who are reliant on the additional help of the food pantry. In order to qualify, individuals and families must meet the guidelines outlined by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

The food pantry accepts applications over the phone and then walks clients through the process.

Clients schedule an appointment to shop during the open hours on Mondays and Thursdays, and a volunteer will assist them.

“We give each person or family about a week’s worth of groceries. You can imagine the amount you buy for your family for a week and multiply that by the 16 families we feed each time we’re open,” Jane said. “The food really does fly off the shelves.”

It’s important to have dedicated volunteers to help stock the shelves between each visit and to run to the store when supplies run low, which is why the pantry is always open to welcoming more volunteers.

Those who wish to donate their time can decide what position best fits them, whether they want to help clients in the pantry, return phone calls or shop for more supplies.

“They can call the food pantry and put their name in and say they’re interested in volunteering,” Deno advised. “We’ll help them find wherever they’re most comfortable.”

As more people, volunteers and clients alike, become familiar with the food pantry, the numbers grow, Jane said, which is a good thing, but it always leads to increased demand.

For a food pantry that is reliant on monetary and food donations, making sure the supply always meets the demand can be hard.

“To keep up with the demand, if we can have businesses, schools or organizations that would like to support us with a food drive, we would love to talk with them,” Jane said. “We want to plan out and have at least one food drive a month.”

There is also a drop box in front of the food pantry for community members to donate nonperishables during off-hours.

Being able to plan out the year and make sure there are no gaps in monetary and food donations helps the pantry better provide for its many clients.

“This ministry is very much a collaborative endeavor with shared leadership through an advisory committee that has representation from all of the partners,” Jane said. “We could not do this without our partners and the community.”

The Under One Roof Food Pantry is located at 310 Elizabeth St. in Maumee at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Volunteers and potential clients can contact the food pantry at (419) 794-0111 and leave their name and phone number for more information.

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