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Second Harvest shares thanks

Army National Guard has been helping for a year

YOUNGSTOWN — For Sgt. Ryan Jones of Youngstown, being able to spend time giving back to his hometown means a lot.

“I like it because I know for sure that people of Mahoning County do need help,” Jones of the Army National Guard said, as he stood in an assembly line to fill 500 boxes for this week’s Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley food giveaway at the Canfield Fairgrounds.

“It’s good to give back in more ways than one, even if it’s not financially. It’s about seeing the people’s faces in the community,” Jones said.

Prior to the food bank, where he’s been volunteering since January, Jones worked a full-time job with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

He’s been with the guard since 2004, and went to Woodrow Wilson High School.

In his time with the military, Jones has been on special assignments including in Toledo for a water crisis, and then last year he was in Cleveland to help control protests.

LIFELINE

Since March 23, 2020, the Ohio National Guard has been at the food bank to help it handle increased demand through the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the Second Harvest team honored volunteers who have helped package food over the past year.

“These soldiers have provided a lifeline for thousands of hungry people throughout the Mahoning Valley this past year,” Mike Iberis, executive director, said.

Through the assistance of the soldiers, more than 15 million pounds of food was distributed in the Valley.

The food bank also expressed appreciation to Gov. Mike DeWine, who deployed almost all of the state’s National Guard last year to assist various groups with the pandemic.

“Without Gov. DeWine’s help and, of course, all the men and women of the National Guard, we would have been struggling” to serve communities by way of emergency food, Iberis said.

Over the last year, the soldiers have worked more than 40,000 hours in the Valley packing, sorting and distributing food, Iberis said.

Working on the assembly line alongside Jones was Spc. Jovohna Hughes of Youngstown. She’s been at the food bank for nine months.

“It’s been rewarding giving back to the community where I was born and raised,” she said. This has been her first special assignment with the National Guard.

The spokesman and local leader for the special assignment is Adam Fullmer, warrant officer candidate, of Louisville in Stark County. He’s been at the food bank for about eight months, along with many of the other volunteers.

NEARER HOME

Initially when the National Guard was deployed, Fullmer said many soldiers were commuting to other areas not close to home.

Through some reorganization, many soldiers are now near where they call home.

“I think it makes it easier to put your life on hold, knowing you are helping your neighbors,” Fullmer said.

Most of the volunteers at the food bank are from Youngstown, Austintown, Niles and Boardman, for example, he said. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

The local deployment has provided an opportunity for many of the soldiers and airmen, Fullmer said, to apply their training.

Times have changed within the last nearly 20 years, he said, and soldiers aren’t deployed as much overseas.

“For some of these soldiers and airmen, this will be the only time they are working full-time for the Army,” Fullmer said.

This has been the first assignment for Cortland resident Spc. Sam Schmucker.

Last year, he was in Akron. He’s been helping closer to home since November, Schmucker said.

“I’m glad to be helping my community,” he said.

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley supports 160 food programs in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties. More than 16,500 requests are filled each week by those agencies.

According to Second Harvest, 30 percent of the requests last year included children, and 24 percent of them were for senior citizens.

afox@tribtoday.com

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