2011-09-24 / News

Demand threatens to overwhelm Hebron baby pantry

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON – The numbers say it all. The demand for Hebron’s New Life Community Center Baby Pantry’s services has tripled since August 2010.

“It’s hard to get your head around how big the demand is,” said New Life and Hebron United Methodist Church Pastor Brian Harkness.

The baby pantry is an extension of Hebron’s New Life Community Center in the former Bowman Chevrolet building in downtown Hebron, baby pantry director Beth Walter explained previously. She said there are roughly 20 food pantries in Licking County, but there was only one baby pantry. The New Life Community Baby Pantry opened its doors November 2009, helping 10 clients from an eight by nine feet room. By October 2010, the pantry moved twice to its current home in a 1,200 square feet section of the building.

The pantry offers baby supplies, such as diapers, food, toiletries, formula, and clothing for babies and adolescents at no cost to qualified parents in Licking and areas of Perry and Fairfield counties. Walter said there’s no income limitation to who’s served, but new clients will need to bring proof of residency, such as a drivers license or rental agreement, and proof of child. Bringing the child to the pantry is obviously perfectly acceptable, or a hospital form. Client visits are limited to once per month to serve as many people as possible.

“It’s emergency use,” said Harkness, but there seems to be plenty of emergency situations for area parents. The baby pantry is having a hard time keeping up with demand. He said the community could really help by donating baby items.

In fact, the pantry is sponsoring “baby showers,” at the New Life and Hebron United Methodist churches Sunday, Oct. 23, at 9:15 and 10:30 a.m. The pantry most needs baby wipes and wash; diapers sizes 4, 5, and 6; kids’ shampoo; baby lotion; baby oil; toddler and baby food; and mac & cheese. Cash donations are always welcome as Harkness said the staff is very effective at locating and using coupons, which seriously stretch donated dollars. “We use multiple, multiple coupons,” he said. The pantry also posts a coupon wall for clients’ baby needs.

Harkness said the panty gives 20 diapers per child, which adds up to a whole lot of diapers, even though clients can only receive items from the pantry monthly. According to his statistics, the baby pantry served 60 children Aug. 2010, which increased to a staggering 188 children by Aug. 2011. That’s 313 percent growth. “More and more people are out of work. It just continues to grow,” said Harkness.

The pantry gave away 550 diapers in Aug. 2010 and 2,106 last August – a 383 percent increase. “We’re trying hard not to cut back on what we’re giving them,” he said, adding that the demand illustrates how difficult the economic situation is in Licking, Fairfield, and Perry counties, particularly for single mothers.

Kaye Hartman, Buckeye Lake Village Council member and volunteer coordinator for the Newark Salvation Army, said the need isn’t limited to Hebron. In the past year, the Newark Salvation Army’s demand for supplies, including baby supplies, “just went through the roof,” she said. When it comes to donated diapers and formula, “it goes out as fast as it comes in,” said Hartman.

Hartman said that part of the problem is a lack of local public transportation. If parents can’t afford diapers and formula, chances are they can’t afford a vehicle, either, which makes it very difficult to access supplies. Also, she said Newark’s baby pantry at Wright Memorial Methodist Church is only open Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for only two hours each day. Hartman said the Salvation Army’s soup kitchen supplied 3,328 meals in August 2010 and 7,410 in August 2011.

“It’s doubled,” she said. Hartman said the food pantry sent three day supplies of food to 172 households in August 2010 and 229 households in August 2011. She said such numbers are indicative of worsening economic conditions in Licking County. Hartman estimates that half the people she sees at the soup kitchen every day are there for the first time. It scares her to think about how busy the holidays will likely be. “We had 139 people here today for lunch,” said Hartman.

Harkness said the baby pantry is doing everything it can to make the public aware of its needs for donations and the services it provides by posting the pantry on a Facebook page and providing an outdoor donation bin. The pantry’s hours are Wednesdays 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to noon.

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