Fantastic 5

Fantastic 5

As Christmas draws near, it is easy to get swept up in the receiving part of the holidays, but for five Hiland High School National Honor Society students, the focus was on giving to others.

Inspired by Wyatt Freeman, who had volunteered at the Food Pantry at Millersburg Church of God a year prior, he and four classmates and fellow NHS members took a day to lend a hand at the pantry.

The five volunteered at the pantry on Friday, Dec. 10, where they helped box and bag food, restock shelves, deliver groceries to cars that had come to the pantry and did whatever they were asked.

Kylee Kaufman, Tatiana Hochstetler, Paige Gertz and Tristina Tucker joined Freeman and created a lasting memory, at the same time easing some of the burden that exists on the normal cast of volunteers who work at the pantry on each delivery day on every Friday throughout the year.

“We felt it was important to get out into the community and serve others,” Freeman said. “It’s good to get out in the community and make a difference. I volunteered here last year and absolutely loved it. They do such a great work here and serve a critical role in our community.”

He said knowing they were making an impact on the lives of people around them makes volunteering an easy choice.

Kaufman said the day helped them all gain some better understanding about the importance of giving back to the community. She said when they first arrived at the food pantry, they were warmly welcomed and accepted. They were treated to pizza for lunch, and all five felt right at home almost immediately.

“Everyone we talked to was so gracious, and they made us feel like we had been volunteering here forever,” she said.

Tucker said doing the job with her friends made the experience more comfortable and said it helped get the students out of their comfort zone of spending time around their friends.

“We get to interact with groups of people we normally wouldn’t interact with,” Tucker said. “Usually, I’m around kids all day, and it’s nice to be around people who have a lot of different life experiences. I’ve only been here a couple of hours, and I already feel like I’ve learned so much from being around other people who have so much life experience to offer.”

As someone who works at a grocery store, Tucker said she understands the needs that are out there in the community and has seen families who have little come in for groceries, so it is refreshing to be able to serve families who are facing needs and don’t have as much, and it is especially satisfying to do so during the holiday season when it feels like it means even more to families.

For those who serve at the pantry on a regular basis, all help is always welcome, but it is particularly heartwarming to see young people giving of their time and energy.

“It stirs my heart to see young men and women who are going to be the leaders of our next generation committing to serve in their community,” Food Pantry at Millersburg Church of God director Dave Masters said. “It is such a blessing, and we are so honored to have them come and help.”

According to Masters, the pantry has already eclipsed last year’s total amount of food given to area families in terms of weight, with the pantry handing out 763,000 pounds of food last year. Masters said with Christmas right around the corner, while the pantry may not have gifts and toys to offer families, they can help make it a more joyful Christmas season through the gift of food.

To help meet the needs of area families, it takes many volunteers. Masters said his usual group of volunteers are mostly made up of senior citizens, so it is always refreshing to have young people come in to lend a hand and give the regulars some time off.

“It helps lighten the burden on us older generation people,” Masters said. “I’m 65, and I’m one of the youngest volunteers here.”

If an individual or group would like to volunteer for a day, they may do so by calling Shirley Proper at 330-763-1086.

“We’ve had everything from church groups, families and youth organizations to individuals looking to help others who volunteer,” Masters said. “If people call in and volunteer ahead of time, we can give some of our regulars a break.”

With many expenses and some recent poor luck with vehicles that has created some major repair bills, Masters said the pantry can always use monetary donations, which can be sent to Millersburg Church of God, 10643 state Route 39 W., Millersburg, OH 44654. He said simply put food pantry in the memo line of a check and 100% of the donation will go to the food pantry.