SMITHFIELD - As a Mid-Ohio Food Pantry truck with an attached trailer maneuvers its way out of the Smithfield Friends Church parking lot, volunteers appear to store the canned goods, frozen meats, personal needs and medications in the proper rooms and place items on shelves.
The workers are part of the Smithfield Food Pantry, a United Way of Jefferson County partner, providing food and friendship to those in need within a 10-mile radius of Smithfield.
Stan Dombroski, director of the food pantry for 11 years, said the merchandise delivered from the Mid-Ohio Food Pantry in Columbus is stored in designated rooms and in the proper conditions, such as canned items set on the shelf, meats kept frozen and eggs refrigerated.
FOOD PANTRY OFFICIALS — The banner proclaiming the Smithfield Friends Church Food Pantry is a United Way of Jefferson County partner hangs in the downstairs lobby with pride. Food pantry officials include, from left, Don Roe, facility manager; Stan Dombroski, director; Patty Wetherell, United Way agency representative and secretary; and Jim Faunda, administrative clerk.
"We have two methods of service," Dombroski explained. "There is the generic, where a certain list of foods are prepackaged to be picked up by the client, and the self-select method. This is like a store. We have volunteers standing at a table in front of food shelves and the freezer. The client then makes selections according to guidelines of Mid-Ohio. Many clients walk out with a banana box filled with needed groceries, totaling at least $100," he said.
"Guidelines for a one- to two-member family are 20 items minimum; three to four family members, 25 items; and five-plus members, 30 items. We have never gone down to the minimum amount of food items in the last five years and those guidelines include some packages of either pork, beef or chicken as well," Dombroski explained.
Patty Wetherell, United Way agency representative and the pantry secretary, explained how the organization came about.
"Mary Joy Dillon Van Norman, our church outreach elder at the time, started a small service within our church with just five or six families. She married and was leaving the area but was concerned about who would take over. We went through all church member names and came up with Stan and Kathy Dombroski many times as the answer. And they readily took the position when asked."
"When I became director, I said, If we are going to do this, let's do something that makes a difference. All the churches in Smithfield were in support of a food bank and then we expanded to the areas of Adena, Bloomingdale, Rayland and places where they don't have access to the bigger metropolitan areas, such as Steubenville and St. Clairsville," he said.
Dombroski has a portfolio of pictures from the pantry and the jobs carried on there. He and Wetherell take this to different organizations when they speak, telling of its value to the community. Other board members are Donna Cronin, Barbara Vandeborne and Mary Ann Boyd.
"About six years ago, we applied to and were accepted as a United Way partner. If not for their funding, we wouldn't be able to do all that we get accomplished. We get between one-third and one-half of our funding from the United Way to complete our program. Without that we would have to limit what we provide to the clients," Dombroski said.
"This is a special time for the United Way. It has continued for 80 years of caring, as it reads on the T-shirts we are wearing. Private contributions and the United Way are the main sources. We don't have fundraisers," Wetherell said.
"Many of the volunteers come from the church body. Then we invited anyone who wants to be part of the program to help," Dombroski related.
He told how Don Roe was employed at the Cardinal Plant and came out to help during the United Way's annual A Day of Caring event.
From that experience, he came back after his retirement and is facility manager now.
The pantry has between 25 and 30 volunteers, with no paid staff. There are some floaters and some are in charge of certain areas, it was noted.
"We accept clients on an honor system. They are asked what income guideline they fall under and where they reside. That is all the proof we ask," Joann Faunda, administrative clerk, said.
Faunda is the official greeter, welcoming clients as they enter the church. She gives each family a number and they wait their turn.
"A representative from Mid Ohio is here each month to oversee the operation and once a year they do an inspection," Dombroski explained.
"Participating in the United Way events and meeting their people has been a very good experience for me. The pantry participated in the Memorial Pledge Motorcycle Run, and Stan and I have been speakers at the American Electric Power facility in Brilliant, telling workers how the money they donate through the United Way is distributed," she said.
"They have been helpful with our food pantry. Through this agency, we can connect our clients with other services that we do not perform ourselves. There is the Fourth Street Health Clinic, where they can get prescriptions; and the YWCA or City Rescue Mission for emergency housing, to name a few. The network is beneficial to our clients," she related.
The director said in 2011 there were 191 families per month served by the pantry. Now the average is 230 families per month.
"During the last six months, we have seen a significant increase. A family is figured to be 2.5 people and we have about 600 people per month come through our pantry. So far, we haven't had to turn anyone away or diminish the services. This is in part due to the United Way funding. We had a director come out once and we were so busy with clients that we did not have time to talk. You can't fake this, you can't put it on," he said.
"They reach many people. With all the hungry people in the county, this a program that feeds the soul as well as the stomach," Beth Rupert-Warren, United Way of Jefferson County executive director, said.
"This is their outreach ministry. They (Smithfield Friends Church Food Pantry) are truly there for the people and able to reach all in the community with a need. They touch many people in many different ways, not just with food," she said.
The local United Way's 2013 campaign has a goal of $440,000, and it aids 19 area agencies.