MercyWorks, a Union Township food pantry, received $30,200 in gift cards Aug. 10 as part of the Meijer Simply Give program.
The food pantry, located at Eastgate Vineyard Church on Old State Route 74, partnered with Meijer to participate in the Simply Give program, which enables customers to donate $10 gift cards to help stock the shelves of a local food pantry.
“Each Meijer store chooses a pantry, and they run the promotion several times a year,” Barbara Eppich, MercyWorks pastor, said. “If you are a customer, you can pick up a card and take it to the cash register and they double it.”
Eppich said the most recent donation from the program was the largest they have received.
“We were able to really stock the pantry nicely for people who need food,” Eppich said.
Eppich said approximately 30-40 families come to the food pantry each week. She said the number has grown significantly over the past five years of operation.
“Probably three to four years ago we started seeing a lot of folks that were still working and just couldn’t make it,” Eppich said about the increased need.
She said the pantry provides people in the community a place they can come, sit down, get a hot meal two days a week and also receive groceries to help them for a few days.
Bob Wilson, a Bethel resident, said he heard about the food pantry a couple years ago.
“We started coming in,” Wilson said. “Since I am on a fixed income every little bit will help.”
Wilson said getting a hot meal with his family and getting groceries when he needs them keeps his family from going hungry for a couple of days.
Wilson said when he can, he will also give back to the food pantry.
“It’s not them just helping me,” he said. “Whenever I can help back I do because they are great people here.”
Volunteers help hand out the food each week, which includes everything from bread products to meat and fresh produce.
Eppich said some volunteers, like Paula Mooney, came through the pantry doors to receive help and now volunteer.
“It was really important to me,” Mooney, a volunteer, said about receiving food from the pantry.
Mooney said her disability forced her to cut back her hours at work and she was unable to make enough money to live on. She came to the food pantry until she was approved for Medicare.
“When I got approved for Medicare, I started volunteering,” Mooney said.
Mooney now helps as intake and outtake leader at the pantry and works directly with the men, women and families who come in.
She said she also worked to spread the word about the pantry during the Taste of Clermont festival in Batavia, which is also when Meijer presented the pantry with gift cards to purchase more food.
“If we didn’t have the Simply Give program and Meijer, we wouldn’t have this food pantry,” Mooney said.
The Simply Give program began again Aug. 5 and customers will be able to purchase food pantry donation cards until Oct. 6.
The MercyWorks food pantry is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is located at 1005 Old State Route 74. For more information about the Meijer Simply Give program, visit www.meijer.com.