Toiletry donations are needed to help local families through the Amherst Food Pantry.
Operated by Good Shepherd Baptist Church on Cleveland Avenue, the pantry helped 25 Amherst families during the month of June.
Four or five bags of groceries are usually given to those in need, said the Rev. Steve Mayes. Those foodstuffs are readily available through a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio.
Canned goods are also plentiful, largely because of the “Food for Fines” program at the Amherst Public Library and similar efforts by other organizations.
But there are goods that are constantly in demand.
Families often need bar soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, and toothpaste. When the church buys a case of toilet paper for its facility, it buys a second for the food pantry — but it can always use more, Mayes said.
Since the church buys food from Second Harvest based on its weight, heavy items such as peanut butter, jelly, spaghetti sauce, and boxes of macaroni are costly and those donations are always extremely welcome, he said.
A slow month for the food pantry would see 12 to 15 people asking for help; that’s about how many “regular customers” the church sees, according to Mayes. But this summer, requests for help have soared.
More Amherst families are struggling than you may think — the pastor said they are older folks as well as very young families with two or three children.
Some just need a hand getting back on track. Others are fighting invisible battles, living in $250,000 homes without furniture because they’ve lost jobs and have sold everything to stay afloat.
“Whenever they’re brand new, they’re kind of skittish,” said Mayes. “The embarrassment factor or whatever comes into play. We try to make them as comfortable as possible when they get here. We treat them like people instead of just folks that need help.”
Many are working poor, holding low-wage jobs but unable to make ends meet, he said.
The pastor said he deeply respects those who do their best in a $10 per hour position. “There is something about the self-esteem of being able to work for yourself and bring home a paycheck,” he said. “Whether it’s a great paycheck is not the issue at this point, you still get help.
“If you need help, you come here and we’re going to help you.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.