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Dublin Food Pantry History as we mark our 46th year

To mark this milestone of 46 years of service, City of Dublin Mayor Fox will visit Dublin Food Pantry on Thursday, March 24th. Current Board Chair Gene Pavell and Vice-Chair Eric Bosserman will be on hand, along with Executive Director Denise “Dinky” Youngsteadt-Parrish and Operations Director Jim Wilson. They will join the mayor in thanking pantry volunteers and partners. Here is a brief history of the pantry:​

About our historic location:

Dublin Food Pantry (DFP) operates in Dublin Community Church (DCC) which was built in 1887. After a 1912 tornado destroyed two nearby churches, all three congregations, according to Dublin’s Journey, formed Dublin Community Congregation Church in 1913. This spirit of shared space for the greater good continues today since DCC allows Dublin Food Pantry to independently operate from this Historic Dublin location.

The Beginning:

March of 1976 is considered the official start of Dublin Food Pantry since it is the date of the non-profit designation through Dublin Community Church to formally operate the pantry.

At that time, there was only one high school and Dublin was a village.

Rev. Robert Bradstreet, who pastored from 1972 to 1988, noted that pantry support was community wide. Beginning in the 1980’s area churches and groups signed up for assigned months to staff the food pantry. In 1980, the Operation Feed Foodbank opened, eventually becoming the current Mid-Ohio Food Bank Collective. Today, DFP is one of Mid-Ohio Food Collective’s 680 partner agencies. This partnership is significant. In addition to training and data tracking programs, DFP can access needed items from Mid-Ohio and collect weekly perishable food donations from area grocers.

​Operational changes – a closet, a store, curbside service:

Pantry founders noted that the pantry began in a large closet in the late 1970’s. After a large addition to the church in the 1990’s, the pantry took over a room in the new space offering a “choice” grocery-store experience where customers filled a shopping cart with items they selected.

With the significant Covid-19 pandemic impact, many changes occurred. With limited church functions in 2020 occurring at the same time as pantry customer number doubled, DDC leadership allowed the pantry to expand. The extra space was needed not only to meet the surge in demand and to meet social distance requirements, but also to allow the pantry to operate curbside service. From serving a monthly average number of individuals in 2019 of 769, monthly averages increased to1,052 in 2020 and 1,763 in 2021. In early 2022, more than 2,000 individuals are served monthly.

​Service Area Growth:

Increased customer numbers align with the population growth within Dublin Food Pantry’s service area. For instance, Dublin School District is the 9th largest school district in Ohio in 2022 according to Ohio Department of Education statistics. The district spans parts of three counties and eight zip codes. The City of Dublin’s population is over 50,000 in 2022.

Restructuring the pantry:

Officially, DFP began as the Dublin Area Emergency Assistance Program (DAEAP.) A descriptive name since the pantry provides an emergency source of food, basic personal care items and links to resources. As Dublin and Dublin School District grew over the years, the pantry had to adjust. The surge in need during the recession of 2008 was particularly impactful in moving the pantry towards its current organizational structure.

In 2011, DFP’s Volunteer Executive Director Linda Fisher met two of her pantry goals with the formation of a board who would hire the first professional Director. Fisher said, “It was a realization over time that this has just grown into more than what a volunteer can reasonably be asked to do, and it has been at that point for three or four years” as reported by This Week in October of 2011.

Although day-to-day operations continued as usual, the Board updated DFP’s 501(3)(c) non-profit designation so the pantry was independent from Dublin Community Church in March of 2012. This update had the support of Senior Minister Rev. Robert Tussing who agreed that the growth of the pantry’s scope warranted the changes. In the spring of 2012, DFP Board President Amy Tibbals announced that the Board hired Dublin Food Pantry’s first paid employee, Executive Director Nancy Johnson.

Pantry Executive Directors:

Each Director has made impressive contributions to the pantry:

· Nancy Johnson (March 2012-2015) continued the overhaul of pantry operations to a “choice” pantry where customers could load their shopping cart with selected grocery items

· Molly Arbogast, MSW (2015-2018) secured the largest grant (to date at that time) to purchase a much-needed cargo van and updated DFP’s logo and marketing materials

· Denise “Dinky” Youngsteadt-Parrish (March 2019-present) lead through the Covid-19 pandemic impact, according to, then Board Chair Asch Mikhail, noting that she “works with the Board to meet the dual challenges of dramatically increased emergency need in changing and challenging conditions. In 2021, she earned recognition as the Dublin Chamber of Commerce President‘s Award Honoree.

Operation Staff:

– Lynne Hessler (2015-2018) was previously the pantry’s volunteer Operations Coordinator and became the pantry’s first paid part-time Operations Director.

– Jim Wilson (December 2018 – present) Late in 2018, Jim was asked by the Board to step in as Interim Director of Operations at a time when both pantry staff members had opted to move on. According to Lisa Patt McDaniel, a pantry board officer at the time, “Jim’s quick grasp of the operational issues and his professional approach to both volunteers and customers made an immediate positive impact. Jim has been Director of Operations since 2019 and he has been indispensable to the pantry, facing and meeting more challenges than ever anticipated.”

What’s next:

Dublin Community Church, under the leadership of Rev. Lisa Bowersock, after Rev. Tussing’s retirement in September of 2021, works with the pantry to work around the continued expanded space use. Pantry teams work to store items and clear the space for space conflicts. However, now that in-person events are being scheduled again, this church space is not available to the pantry in the same way.

The need for additional Dublin Food Pantry space is being addressed by the pantry staff, Board Chair, Gene Pavell, the DFP Board of Trustees and community leaders.

Community support powers the pantry:

Hundreds of volunteers who have steadfastly collected, sorted, and distributed donations are also a key part of pantry staffing history.

For each of the pantry’s 46 years, support comes from faith communities, businesses, groups, clubs, troops, schools, neighborhoods, and the City of Dublin. The pantry is an example of “neighbors helping neighbors.” Some volunteers have served for decades, others have taken on leadership roles. For instance, Bev Ross has served as volunteer Transportation Director since 2012, former Board member Patte Widerschein has handled the website and social media since 20`17, and former Board Chair Chris Ogden manages the statistics for the pantry.

Prior to cancellations due to the pandemic, the biggest single pantry community support event takes place on Sunday morning of the Dublin Irish Festival. Entry to the Festival is given in exchange for a food or fund donation to the pantry. Hundreds of pantry volunteers pitch in to staff all Festival entry gates to collect these donations.

Filling Hearts and Carts

The hashtag “filling hearts and carts” not only recognizes DFP’s unique green shopping carts filled with needed groceries but also the positive impact found at a community pantry. The hashtag is a nod to the pantry’s expanded social media presence.

Sources:

Dublin Community Church Staff and volunteers

dublinohiohistory.org

Dublin’s Journey Local government print book publication. Dublin, OH 2004

https://www.midohiofoodbank.org/who-we-are/about-us/

https://www.thisweeknews.com/article/20120515/NEWS/305159619

https://www.thisweeknews.com/article/20111026/NEWS/310269398

https://sunny95.com/outstanding-women/nancy-johnson/

https://www.dublinschools.net/domain/860

https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/dublin-oh-population