By DAVID GREEN
By the start of the new year, Fayette should have a top-notch food pantry, ready to serve those in need from throughout the area.
“It’s not just for Fayette,” said Bob Yano, who’s setting up the pantry with Don Stiriz and Elwyn Bates. “It’s open to everyone.”
That could include a trucker driving through town on U.S. 20 or a family in a nearby community that’s having trouble putting food on the table.
Yano and his wife have worked with food pantries in Toledo for several years, so they have a good idea of how a successful operation can work.
Yano intends to go beyond the usual small-town pantry that relies on donations of canned goods from area residents. Donations will still be essential, but he will also obtain food from the Northwest Ohio Food Bank located in Toledo.
“It’s meant to serve all of us in Northwest Ohio,” Yano said. “Certain foods are free; some cost 18 cents a pound. It’s a pretty good deal.”
Not just anyone can walk in and obtain food from the regional food bank, however. Federal tax-empt status is needed, so the new organization has incorporated as Fayette’s Helping Hands. Work continues toward obtaining federal 501(c)(3) status.
Don Stiriz has agreed to allow the pantry to be located in the former restaurant building that he owns in downtown Fayette. A walk-in freezer will be available to store meat from the Toledo food bank.
Yano had hoped to have the pantry open by Thanksgiving, but he soon realized that wasn’t going to happen due to required paperwork. He decided to wait until January for two reasons.
First, people are often very willing to help during the holiday season, but support typically falls off later and that’s when Helping Hands will fill the gap.
Additionally, Yano is hesitant to open the facility before the shelves are full.
“I don’t want to open the doors until we’re well stocked,” he said. “I want people to have a good first impression or they won’t be back.”
Yano will provide financial backing himself to get the project underway, but expects help from others will follow. He’s heard interest expressed from many people.
Elwyn Bates is contacting area churches for support and village administrator Amy Metz is hoping to get students involved.
Yano will speak with the managers of food stores in the region about obtaining donations. He’s heard some objections due to liability concerns, but he figures that can be cleared up through education. The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 to address the liability issue.
If butchering services can be arranged, Yano will investigate obtaining deer shot by hunters who don’t want to keep the meat, and injured, but healthy, farm animals.
Once the pantry opens, volunteers will staff the facility Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 6 p.m.
• The next meeting of Fayette’s Helping Hands is scheduled at 5 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Pizza Stop. Anyone interested in supporting the project is invited to attend.