HOBART — COVID-19 has altered the Hobart Kiwanis Club’s annual drive for the Hobart Food Pantry, but the end result still boosted the pantry’s shelves.
Because social distancing prevented the traditional door-to-door pickup, Kiwanians turned to neighborhood drop-offs.
The coronavirus’ social distancing protocol sidelined the Hobart High School Key Club and ROTC students from picking up food and sorting it at the food pantry, but that did not deter Kiwanians from revising their collection strategy.
Normally, the Hobart Kiwanis organizes its annual Hobart Food Pantry drive the second Saturday in October in preparation for winter holidays. But, as Kiwanis food drive coordinator Sheila DeBonis pointed out, this year is not normal.
"We decided to partner with local neighborhoods and organizations to do the best we can with drop-off sites. We started with my own neighborhood in September and found it was very productive and rewarding to gather food in our own backyards and garages," she said.
According to DeBonis, the Deep River Pointe neighborhood collected two truckloads of food from 90 households. Kiwanians used this model in multiple neighborhoods throughout the city with their volunteers and the HHS Key Club.
Kiwanis president Jack Serletic hosted a similar drive in his Barrington Cottages subdivision in early October and was equally successful.
“It’s heartwarming to see my friends and neighbors respond by giving so much in this time of need and volunteering their time to help,” Serletic said. “I was amazed at how much they gave. Most brought at least two bags.”
One resident, Serletic said, recruited help from her prayer group and brought a carload of food.
Elijah Puente, Hobart High School Key Club president, has led the effort among his 60 members to host drop-off sites with strict protocols in place. These include wearing a mask, social distancing, and no touching of food for 72 hours, while passing out flyers, being present and thanking all who donate. Adults have assisted with sorting.
Other partners in setting up drop-off sites have included the Hobart Fire Department, Maria Reiner Center, Hidden Lake clubhouse, Trinity Lutheran Church and St. Bridget Parish Center.
Hobart Mayor and Kiwanian Brian Snedecor commented, “I appreciate how Kiwanis recognized the need and responded in a champion way.”
The Hobart Food Pantry has traditionally benefited from two major annual food drives, one by postal workers in the spring and the Kiwanis drive in the fall. COVID-19 prevented the spring drive.
Theresia Larimore, director of the Hobart Food Pantry, thanked Kiwanis “for filling the need especially before the holidays.” She added food donations from the public have been down because of COVID-19. Financial donations have increased, Larimore said, but so has need.
Financial donations can be sent directly to the Hobart Food Pantry, PO Box 394, Hobart, 46342.