HOWLAND - Physical size does not matter when trying to affect change in the community, according to Chuck Mackey of Bolindale Christian Church.
Mackey said starting a food bank was not something he planned to do nearly five years ago, but the church's leadership thought it was their responsibility to provide service to others. Bolindale Christian Church has 60 members and the congregation was founded nearly 90 years ago.
"Any church that does not reach outside of its walls eventually will whither away and die," Mackey said. "If we are not reaching out to serve the needs of the community, then what is the point. We want to be like Jesus Christ in our actions and beliefs. He was a servant."
Mackey and his daughter, Julie Marinkovich, representing the Bolindale Food Pantry, accepted a certificate and a $100 donation from the Rotary Club of Howland during club's 39th annual spaghetti dinner on Saturday. The awards ceremony and fundraiser recognizes the contributions of individuals and groups.
"We serve on average 60 to 70 families, twice a month," Mackey said. "The families in the age range between 18 years old to 59 years old changes a little from one month to the next. However, when we provide food for people who are 60 years old and older, they generally come back month after month."
Mackey said the older recipients usually are on fixed incomes and that income is affected by the cost of medicines they take to maintain their health.
Also recognized at Saturday's dinner were Howland Interact students, the Howland Community Scholarship program, the Howland Community Church Food Pantry and the Howland High School Choir, as well as the Howland Police and Fire departments.
Tom Hitmar of Howland Community Church agreed with Mackey that there is a significant need in the community for emergency food services.
Both church food pantries have received assistance from the Howland trustees, the Howland High School Stuff the Bus program and Second Harvest Food Bank.
The spaghetti dinner and awards ceremony is Howland Rotary's single largest fundraiser. It raises, on average, $2,500 a year. The money is used to provide for a variety of programs, which includes the American Red Cross, Trumbull Mobile Meals and other service organizations.
Howland Rotary provides approximately $6,500 worth of donations to selected organizations annually.
"We often give to the same organizations every year, so we know how our donations are helping the agencies," Dick Lytle, Howland Rotary's treasurer said.
The Howland High School Choir was recognized for the work its members do both inside the district and in the community.
"These kids love to sing, but they love to use their gifts to help others," Anjenette DePoy, director of the Howland High School Choir said.
She said the student choir members gain as much as they give.
"They gain self-confidence, leadership and, especially for those who participate for three to four years, a feeling of family," DePoy said.
By RENEE FOX - Tribune Chronicle , Tribune Chronicle
HOWLAND - With 17 percent of families in Trumbull County living in poverty, the use of food banks on the rise and federal statistics showing people with the lowest levels of education are most often poor, two local organizations are partnering to try to help educate people trying to pull themselves up.
The food bank at Bolindale Christian Church at 2749 Fairview St. SE will host Trumbull Business College representative Tammy Hartman 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to provide anyone who wants it information on scholarships, grants and programs offered at the school.
"There are assets and resources not being utilized in the community," said Chuck Mackey, with the church and food bank. "We want to open up education to help the people that need it the most, people that just need a little help to get ahead with a GED or higher education."
Mackey said he knows of people who once relied on food banks until they went through a GED program, received a bachelor's degree and even doctorate degrees, and no longer needed the help.
The partnership makes sense because the business college is near the food bank and is an easy place for food recipients and others who need an education to go, Mackey said.
"Some people may not think they have anything to live for or hope for," Mackey said. "Getting an education may help people change their outlooks on life and make a decision to change their lives."
Mackey said he teamed up with the college after meeting several families looking to lift themselves out of poverty. He said the food bank services between 40 and 70 families every two weeks.
Numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show nearly 30 percent of people who did not graduate from high school are living in poverty, compared to 13.5 percent of those who did and 4 percent of those who have a bachelor's degree or higher.
In Ohio, nearly 16 percent of Ohioans live in poverty while in Trumbull County, the number is about 1.5 percent greater, according to 2014 report from the Center for Community Solutions.
Hartman said the college listens to area employers when they form their degree and certification programs, to help ensure employment upon graduation. The school offers assistance with aid applications, and works with students to overcome barriers to education, offering online programs too, she said.
"Education is the means to advance," Hartman said. "We want to join these community resources together and see what we can do."
A vision years in the making has come to life in Howland and it's designed to help struggling families put food on the table.
"Lord, we are grateful. We really know that without you this would not take place," said Pastor Ray Blasko of Bolindale Christian Church.
Box by box, food left the church on Wednesday afternoon. It was the first day of operations for the food pantry inside Bolindale Christian Church. It's another option for families who are finding it hard to make ends meet.
"There's a lot of low-income families here," said Howland Township Trustee Rick Clark. "There's a lot of even children in this church that don't have enough to eat at home. So, there's definitely a need."
Grant money from the Ohio Department of Health made its way to the mission project through the Trumbull County Health Department.
It's the partnership between those agencies, township trustees, the church, its members and Second Harvest Food Bank that will keep the operation going.
"This neighborhood, we see it as a very working class neighborhood. We see a lot of dual incomes and still they struggle," Blasko said. "So, we're just really excited because we think this is really going to make a huge difference."
The first 20 minutes the doors were open, 20 people walked away with boxes filled with cereal, crackers, vegetables and more. Recipients also got to leave with either frozen chicken or beef.
"And I know this is going to meet a great need in our community, and I just want to thank everybody for everything you've done," said Howland Township Trustee James Saker.
Those seeking assistance have to meet certain income requirements and show identification. The pantry will be open every second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 4 to 6 p.m.