LIMA — Jeanne and Steven Foster have had a rough few years. The couple, who live in Lima, has struggled through hospital bills and failing cars the past year, but the two have used Allen County’s Veterans Food Pantry to get through the hard times.
“Their services here are great,” said Steven Foster, a Vietnam War veteran. “We are so thankful that they’re here.”
The food pantry is located in the basement of Memorial Hall in Lima and serves about 300 veteran families per month. It is open 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays and it serves all active and retired war veterans and their families. The pantry offers all kinds of items for the veterans from household items such as dish soap to canned meats and fish.
“They’ve given us more than we expect. They’ve actually offered us things,” Jeanne Foster said. “Because we lost a lot of stuff and I’ve been in and out of the hospital and just got out again on Nov. 30. So we didn’t have anything.”
Co-director of the pantry, Kay Sellers, said her mother-in-law, who was married to a veteran, started the pantry back in 1993 and she has since continued it.
“My girls helped her out different times during the summer and I now have a grandson that comes down and volunteers,” she said. “Veterans are near and dear to our hearts. We all have them in our families. I have three.”
The pantry is structured like a grocery store, with different categories veterans can get food and items from including snacks, dry beans and rice, assorted box items, pasta, condiments, soups, fruits, breakfast, milk, other drinks, meats and frozen foods, canned vegetables, baking needs, dairy, bread and biscuits, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Some of the foods we do have to buy from the food bank, but it’s not buying the actual food,” Sellers said. “It’s paying for the shipping of it in, the maintenance on the vehicles, the maintenance on the freezers, things like that. That money is all donated money from churches, unions, individuals.”
But as much as the food pantry helps Allen County residents, it’s in need of some help of its own. The pantry’s refrigerators and freezers are in dire need of being replaced. Ron Frank, coordinator for the pantry, said they have four refrigerators, four upright freezers and two big chest-type freezers that are old and no longer cool correctly.
Frank said the pantry needs at least six refrigerators, four uprights and two chest-type freezers in order to keep functioning and bringing the food to the veterans.
The pantry was packed with veterans on Wednesday. Usually the pantry serves about 40 to 50 veterans on any given day, Frank said.
Sellers is also president of a local chapter of Blue Star Mothers, a club formed during World War II to provide support for mothers who had sons or daughters in the war.
“I love being a Blue Star mom to my stepsons. They mean the world to me. My dad meant the world to me,” she said, tearing up. “And he’s passed on but I would hope somebody would have helped him when he needed help. We just love our vets.”
If you are interested in donating to the pantry, contact Frank at 419-302-4143 or call the pantry at 419-222-8370.