Toronto food pantry changes hands

TORONTO – Just a few months ago it seemed the city’s His Hands Extended food pantry might be no more, due to a combination of a lack of funds, volunteers and a tightening of food resources.

That would have been very bad news for many in Toronto who monthly count on the pantry to help fill their food needs. However, the city’s ministerial association stepped up and decided they had a civic duty to keep the pantry operational. While not totally out of the woods yet, the pantry will, at least for now, continue, according to the Rev. Eric Frey, pastor of the Toronto Nazarene Church.

“The pantry was a ministry of the Toronto Abundant Life First Assembly of God Church,” said Frey, adding his church now has taken over duties at the pantry. “(It was a ministry) of the church for decades, and officially for the past five years.”

The resignation of the Rev. Lloyd Hill, who has left Toronto for another position at another church, left Frey to take over the reins. Frey said the change took place faster than he thought, but the pantry currently is holding its own.

“(The Nazarene Church) took over at the beginning of the year,” Frey said. “Things are stable, but there’s a lot of room for growth. It’s like a lot of nonprofit (organizations) – it’s from month to month. We give away everything we bring in. There’s no surplus – no excess.”

The pantry obtains a lot of food stock from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, but the food’s not free. The pantry must pay for the nonperishable items from Mid-Ohio, and stock with the organization has tightened, continued Frey.

“It seems (the food bank) doesn’t always have the selection we like, but they always have something,” he said. “The issue is how we can purchase what we need and give it away.

“Riesbeck’s (grocery store) donates all of our meats and baked goods,” continued Frey. “We pick them up from Riesbeck’s twice a week. The baked goods are distributed from 11 a.m. to noon Mondays and Wednesdays. Once a month, from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, we distribute the perishables and meat.”

Frey said to be eligible, individuals must meet income guidelines set by the Jefferson County Job and Family Services.

Frey said currently the pantry is being supported by a coalition of clergy, citizens, businesses and civic leaders. “The future of the pantry is to continue the services to the citizens of city,” he said, adding fundraising will be “the primary thing. The ministry we do now is through the generosity of the people of Toronto.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done, said Frey.

“We’re going to be solidifying our donor list looking to them for support, introducing myself and letting them know where to send donations,” Frey said. “We’re going to shore up the foundation and expand that foundation. Fundraising right now is my No. 1 priority.”

Frey said the pantry’s motto will be “Compassion as a Lifestyle.”

“I hope I can continue to find creative ways for people to be compassionate,” he said.

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