Local Ministry Finds New Ways to Continue Helping Community

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WILMINGTON, Ohio — While unemployment claims continue to skyrocket across the country, food insecurity may be on the rise as well, meaning several food banks are now looking for new ways to continue serving their communities.

Sugartree Ministry is located in the heart of Wilmington, Ohio. Volunteers began lending a helping hand to community members 18 years ago, providing a variety of services. This includes weekly church services and recovery meetings twice a week. One of their most well-known acts of assistance is serving six hot meals a week and offering groceries for families in need each week as well.

The New Plan to Serve

food donations
Donations outside of Sugartree Ministry waiting to be collected.

Now, the organization has moved to a pick-up and delivery system. During a select few hours each week, volunteers have arranged a grocery drive-thru at the ministry’s headquarters. Residents across Clinton County can also call to have groceries delivered directly to their homes. Despite the change, Director Lee Sandlin still sees a silver lining.

“It’s been fantastic because we’ve met a whole bunch of other folks, that I think because of social media… I think there are people that have reached out to us, that have legitimate needs, that didn’t know about us, and we hadn’t met before,” he said.

The Outcome and Response

Sandlin said he hasn’t seen an increase in the number of people requesting hot meals, but he has seen an increase in the number of groceries being distributed. While this might usually cause strain for Sugartree, Sandlin said he’s also seen an increase in the number of donations from the community as well— both in the form of money and food.

food drive sign
A sign advertising donations for the ministry displayed by another nearby local business.

“The stuff that we can normally buy in bulk… right now because of the quantity limitations, we haven’t been able to, so people getting out there and actually getting stuff, individuals buying stuff, for us and donating stuff for us has been the best way for us to get food,” Sandlin said.

In addition to individual support, a local agriculture business has offered assistance as well. Buckley Brothers Drive Thru Barn is not a first time partner of Sugartree. Now, in the face of the pandemic, the two are working together again for a three-week-long food drive. Sandlin said the ministry is focusing on transformation, rather than cancelation.

Other Ohioans in need of additional assistance can apply for SNAP benefits online. Gov. Mike Dewine announced on April 7 that eligible households will be able to pick up pre-packaged boxes of food at local food banks without the usual administrative checks. This comes after receiving federal approval in order to limit person-to-person contact.