ELYRIA — On its first delivery, the newest truck in the Second Harvest Food Bank’s fleet was met with thanks and praise from an Elyria faith community Friday when it dropped nearly 6 tons of food on the doorstep of the Beyond the Walls Church for distribution to those in need.
The truck, which is 48 feet long, was loaded with 22 pallets holding more than 11,000 pounds of produce, baked goods, milk and other food staples to feed the hungry, said Julie Chase-Morefield, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, which serves Lorain, Erie, Huron and Crawford counties.
With a lift gate for quick loading and unloading, the new truck reduces the need for multiple trips or two-truck caravans to distribution sites, Chase-Morefield and director of operations Phil Simulcik said. It is expected to help the nonprofit cut costs and increase distribution capacity by more than one-third.
It took the food bank only six months to raise the money for the truck from corporate donors, Chase-Morefield said.
The Revs. Paul and Cindy Grodell, pastors of Beyond the Walls Church at 101 Woodford Ave., were thankful for the efforts of not just Second Harvest but those community members who came out in support or to help unload the truck.
“Praise God,” Cindy Grodell said.
Volunteers from Dura-Line show up every Friday about 2 p.m. to help unload and prepare for distribution between 4 and 6 p.m., Paul Grodell said.
“These guys are amazing,” he said. “The muscle comes in handy.”
Paul Grodell said the food box and hot meals program started small three years ago when he envisioned a food pantry for Elyrians.
He said he had “no idea it would grow into this.” Lines now form down the sidewalk and snake around the parking lot for food and hot meals, and volunteers on “street teams” go out and deliver food to the homeless or “not-quite-homeless” persons, including some living in local hotels, Paul Grodell said.
Some volunteers who help out at Beyond the Walls once were in need of meals themselves, as they were homeless or in the throes of addiction, “so they know what it’s like,” he said.
The church fed 75,000 people in 2018, said Pastor Deana Rigo, minister of food programs. That’s up from 52,000 served in 2017, she said.
And they come from all over Lorain County and Cuyahoga County, from Medina and Sandusky, Rigo said.
“It’s not just for Elyria, but whoever has a need,” she said.
Easily 30 percent to 35 percent of those served are younger than 18, Paul Grodell said. And an estimated 14 percent of the more than 1,300 individuals served in December alone were senior citizens.
As for Second Harvest’s partner charities, “we need some more like Beyond the Walls,” said Susan Bartosch, director of external affairs for the food bank, which provides 10 million meals annually to families in hunger through multiple state and federal food programs.
Second Harvest delivered 9 million pounds of food for distribution in 2018, Chase-Morefield said.
“I feel like we’ve got a million of that,” Cindy Grodell said Friday, sparking laughter from visitors.