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National Guard 'here to help' Second Harvest Food Bank

Though work closures due to the new coronavirus have increased food demand at the Youngstown food bank, it's also drawn more donation support from the community.

YOUNGSTOWN — Assistance from Ohio’s National Guard has doubled the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley’s daily manpower.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine last week announced the National Guard would mobilize across the state, but they’d be carrying “groceries, not guns,” on request for assistance from the state’s 12 Feeding America food banks.

The Youngstown operation along Salt Springs Road now has 20 guardsmen and women volunteering with food collection, sorting and distribution to its 160 member agencies around the Valley. They’ll be working full time there for at least the next 30 days.

On a typical day, the food bank has about a dozen volunteers, said Mike Iberis, executive director.

“To have 20 people on the ground and have that much more help has been phenomenal,” he said, adding that the bank expects the need for food to increase as work closures persist due to the new coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Last year, the food bank distributed 11.5 million pounds of food, Iberis said. That’s more than 220,000 pounds per week. In the last week, however, the local bank has seen about a 30-percent increase in distribution, or about 287,000 pounds, which he attributed to mass layoffs in the public sector.

“You had a tremendous amount of layoffs in the last week in the hospitality sector, now into the retail sector,” he said Monday as the uniformed service personnel sorted various types of foodstuffs into rows upon rows of “emergency boxes.”

“These folks typically are maybe minimum wage, maybe a little more. When they lose their job, they’ve been living from paycheck to paycheck — now they obviously have to look at every means possible in order to survive.”

Sgt. Sam Wolford, who’s based at the Guard’s Austintown offices, said about half of the soldiers helping are from the region, while the other half come from as far as Akron and Cleveland, so they can return home to their families each night.

He addressed misperceptions about a militarized lockdown enforced by the National Guard in Ohio.

“I think the important thing, really, for everyone to focus on is the fact that we’re here to help,” Wolford said. “Our job is to respond in that time of crisis.

“Our role coming into this place was, ‘What do you want us to do? We’ll go do it.’”

Though Iberis said the COVID-19 outbreak is leading to increased demand for food assistance, it’s also inviting more support from the community. In the last week, Second Harvest has seen a 25-percent increase in online cash donations and a 40-percent increase in checks by mail, which have now begun to arrive, he said.

“The people in the Mahoning Valley have stepped up in order to support what we do,” he said. “Everybody seems to know somebody who’s struggling. They kind of bring it home, to say, ‘Hey, I want to help this person because it could be me tomorrow.’”

If you are in need of food, call ‘211’; call 330-747-2696 in Columbiana and Mahoning counties; or call 330-393-1565 in Trumbull County.

Below is a list of Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley member agencies, so you can find the food-distributing agency closest to you:

Columbiana County

  • Bethel United Church of Christ
  • Columbiana Counseling Center
  • Community Action Agency
  • Community Resource Center
  • Crestview Churches Community Concern
  • East Palestine Nazarene Church
  • Emmanuel Presbyterian
  • Fellowship of the Beloved
  • First Baptist Church
  • First Church of Christ
  • First Church of Christ Disciples
  • First Church of the Nazarene, East Liverpool
  • First United Methodist Lisbon
  • Fish of East Liverpool
  • Food For Friends By Friends
  • Lisbon Baptist Food Pantry
  • Long's Run Presbyterian Church
  • Oasis Food Ministry
  • Rogers United Methodist Church
  • Salem Community Food Pantry
  • Salem First Friends Church
  • Salvation Army East Liverpool
  • Salvation Army Salem
  • Southern Community Center
  • St. Patrick Church Pantry
  • Way Station East Liverpool
  • Way Station Columbiana

Mahoning County

  • Alpha & Omega First Baptist
  • Antonine Sisters
  • Austintown Community Church
  • Beatitude House
  • Beulah Baptist Church
  • Boys & Girls Club of Youngstown
  • Bunker Hill United Methodist Pantry
  • Christ Community Church
  • Christian Life Center
  • Christ Our Savior
  • Concordia Lutheran Church
  • Difference Makers (St. Lucy)
  • Doris Burdman Home
  • E.B. Family Life
  • Evergreen SDA Pantry
  • Faith Community Church
  • First Federated Church
  • Free Methodist Community Church
  • Good Hope Lutheran Church
  • High Pointe Assembly of God
  • Holy Rosary Parish
  • Horizon House
  • Lakeview Assembly of God
  • Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church
  • Mt. Zion Baptist Church
  • Needles Eye Christian Counsel
  • New Beginning Assembly of God
  • New Bethel Baptist Church
  • New Hope Church of God
  • New Life Assembly of God
  • North Jackson Church of the Nazarene
  • O.C.C.H.A., Inc.
  • Oak Baptist Church
  • People's Chapel Church of God
  • Poland Interfaith Pantry
  • Positive Impact
  • Price Memorial
  • Protestant Family Service
  • Red Door Pantry St Johns
  • Representatives of Christ
  • Richard Brown Memorial
  • Salvation Army Youngstown
  • South Range Council
  • Spanish Seventh Day Adventist
  • St. Angela Merici Pantry and Kitchen
  • St. Edwards Conference
  • St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
  • Temple Emmanuel SDA Church
  • The Concern Inc.
  • United Methodist Community Center
  • Ursuline Sisters HIV/Aids Ministry
  • Victory Christian Center
  • Yost Community Center
  • Zion Lutheran Church

Trumbull County

  • AFL-CIO Community Services
  • Barnes Temple COGIC
  • Betty's Angels
  • Bolindale Christian Church
  • Bristolville Christian Harbor
  • Champion Christian Church
  • Christy House
  • Church Hill United Methodist Church
  • Church Mouse
  • Community Volunteer Council
  • Cortland Area Cares
  • Emmanuel Community Care
  • Emmanuel Lutheran (Warren)
  • First Assembly of God (Warren)
  • First Presbyterian Church of Warren
  • Good Shepherd Community Church
  • Hartford Community Church
  • Howland Community Church
  • Hubbard Nazarene Church
  • Liberty Assembly
  • Mecca Community Church
  • Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist
  • NESFACE
  • Niles Community Services
  • Open Door Community Church
  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help
  • Pleasant Valley Share Outreach
  • Riverbend Treatment Center
  • Salvation Army Brookfield
  • Salvation Army Warren
  • Salvation Army/Christians in Action
  • Second Baptist Church
  • St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • St. Mary and St. Joseph
  • St. Patrick's Pantry Hubbard
  • Take Flight
  • Trinity Baptist Church
  • Vienna Ecumenical Food Pantry
  • Warren Family Mission
  • Warren SDA Church


Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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