Helping the Hungry
Mary Lee Maier Community Food Pantry provides food for families.
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Holly Clark, a first-grade teacher at Cedar Elementary, is the board president of the 501c3 of the Mary Lee Maier Community Food Pantry. The pantry, which opened over Labor Day weekend 2016, was formed when like-minded individuals came together. Two teachers — Sarah Tuttle from Sycamore and Kayla Kuepper from White Oak — had started a program called “Branches,” which met the food and security needs of students at Maple. In the meantime, Clark and her principal, Kevin Gray, were looking to do the same thing at Cedar, so they teamed with Gleaners to start the “backpack program” where kids were provided with food for the weekend. It was all good. Just not enough.
“We knew we needed to do more,” says Clark, who met with Margaret Hoernemann, Avon’s superintendent. She connected both groups and together they met with Mike Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Restaurant Group, who agreed to help them create a school-based food pantry. (The board consists of Nikki Harrison, Kevin Gray, Kim Woodward, Hoernemann and Krist Kerr.)
The pantry, open every Thursday from 4:30-6 p.m. when school is in session, serves families who have students in the Avon school system. Though families can come every week, the amount of food each family gets is dependent on the size of the household. For four or fewer per household, they can fill two reusable grocery bags. For those with more than four per family, they can fill three bags per week.
“We completely rely on donations from the community to keep our pantry stocked,” Clark says. “We’re grateful to get donations from schools, businesses, Girl Scout troops, clubs, organizations and individuals.”
Monetary donations enable the pantry staff to purchase perishable items like milk, eggs and meat each week. Beyond that, it’s mostly hopes, prayers and pleas for help. In early October, for instance, when shelves were frighteningly barren, Hoernemann posted to social media, asking the community to help ensure that kids could be fed through the two-week fall break. Ultimately, community members donated more than seven pallets of food and toiletry items.
“We were blown away by the donations that poured in,” says Clark, who has found that the pantry tends to be busier towards the end of each month. “This shows me the amazing things we can do when we come together. I feel blessed to live in this community. Avon is an amazing place.”
The Mary Lee Maier Community Food Pantry is located at Maple Elementary, 7237 E US Hwy 36. Enter Door #4. Drop off donations either at Maple Elementary or the administration building. The pantry is always in need of laundry detergent, boxed meals, personal hygiene items, kid cereal, and snacks. For more information, contact Holly Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.