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Food pantry adjusts to pandemic

Howland church turns to drive-thru giveaways

HOWLAND — The Howland Bolindale Christian Church has learned to adapt during the novel coronavirus pandemic by hosting drive-thru food giveaways for the past year.

The pantry, which started almost 10 years ago, is open the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month.

Church member Chuck Mackey said the congregation has made the pantry possible through their volunteer work. He said before the pandemic, Howland High School students also helped for community service hours.

“During the pandemic, we have kept this to a small certain group of people for safety. Everyone follows safety guidelines and have been vaccinated. Keeping it as a drive-thru has allowed for keeping it safe,” Mackey said.

He said the church was fortunate to host the food pantry all last year as many families were in need because of the economic effects of the pandemic.

Mackey said the pantry started with a couple of shelves in the hallway in the lower level of the church. He said it was made by possible by a grant obtained by the Trumbull County Combined Health District and Howland officials.

“After getting the grant, it has been gangbusters,” he said,

The food is received from Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.

“When we started, the pantry served the local area, but the area has so many rentals and people are in need from other communities, it is now open to everyone,” Mackey said, noting residents in Warren and Weathersfield come for help.

Mackey said the church also receives donations from other congregations, including Howland First Baptist Church.

He said in 2020, the pantry gave out more than 1,900 tons of food — 600 tons more than 2019.

“Because of the pandemic is why it got so high. We have seen families where people have lost their jobs,” he said, noting it dropped off a little this year because of the stimulus checks.

Mackey said the volunteers each do their own job to make the process move smoothly.

Donna Mackey said when she was in Florida 10 years ago, she saw something about a church needing people to feed the residents of its community.

When she came back to Ohio, she started the pantry.

“The people who come here are like family. We have gotten to know them. Some feel embarrassed and say they are glad we are here during rough times. Some may only stop once and are able to get back to work,” she said.

Donna Mackey said she remembers helping veterans who gave her a monetary donation.

“It broke my heart. I would never turn away a veteran. They each gave me a dollar, which is the best $3 we ever had. It came from their heart,” Mackey said.

In March 2021, the pantry helped 92 households with children and 70 households without children, according to data it collected.

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