Agency Spotlight: Xenia FISH Food Pantry

Interviewed by: Carla Steiger

The Xenia FISH Pantry began meeting emergency food needs in the wake of the 1974 Xenia tornado.  Xenia FISH was founded by local Episcopal women and is sponsored by the Xenia Area Association of Churches.  The FISH Pantry is a voluntary non-profit organization.

After walking down the long hallway past other social service offices, the first things one encounters when walking into the doorway at Xenia FISH PANTRY are smiles and goodwill.  The office staff and warehouse workers are genuinely pleased to be there to serve the people who are in need.  Bare concrete floors, fluorescent lighting, rough wooden shelving and cramped office spaces make up the décor of the pantry, yet no one seems to mind or even notice.  They have but one purpose in mind and that is to help others.

Incoming Board President Bob Bosl is outgoing and passionate. He and Dan Frevert were eager to tell the story of the day-to-day operations of the pantry.  Bosl was formerly the Manager of Human Resources at NCR for 33 years and has been involved with FISH PANTRY for twelve years.   Dan Frevert, a twelve-year veteran of the organization, is another FISH PANTRY board member. He oversees the daily operations at the facility with patience and skill. Part of that job is teaching staff how to enter data in the computer that uses software specially designed for The Foodbank.  His previous career was in the Division of Wildlife Management in the Bureau of Fish and Wildlife, where he retired after 33 years.

Bosl stated that, “We service the Xenia area and Fairborn.  We have about 40 families a day, approximately 200 people a week.”  Their clients encompass people “from 1 year-old to 75 years-old,” according to Frevert.

Save for fees paid to a certified public accountant who files income tax returns, all the workers are strictly volunteers and are paid “zero,” according to Bosl.  The Greeneworks Employment and Training Center provides skilled workers in the warehouse and those doing the myriad of paperwork helps individuals get food stamps and help with heating along with job training.

“One lady works 120 hours a month, and after about a year, they have to leave the program and get another job.  We hate to see them go because they really learn to do the job.  They gain basic skills,” he said.

Clients are allowed to come in once every month.  They show identification, but do not need to show other kinds of need qualification.  Each person is treated with warmth and dignity when they arrive to register for their food allotment.  Upon registering, each individual receives a number and waits patiently in the hall, to be called in for their selection of food.

On Thursdays, a truck comes from The Foodbank and food is sorted and shelved according to type.  There is a wide array of canned food, including vegetables, fruits, soups, pork and beans, and spaghetti sauce.  The dry foods range from pasta, beans, raisins, milk, cereal, macaroni and cheese, biscuit mix, instant potatoes to peanut butter.  Single-serving meals and protein rich food such as beef stew are very popular.  Farmer donated fresh eggs and meat, such as chicken are valued by the clients as well, stated Frevert.  Periodically bread and pastries are delivered from Kroger, which are a big hit.  Clients receive bags that each contain a distribution of all the food groups on hand at the time.

2014-11 Xenia FISH BobandDan

Bob Bosl and Dan Frevert of Xenia FISH work hard to serve those who are in need in Xenia

Monday through Friday the flow of goods in and out of the Xenia FISH PANTRY continues with the help of its small army of volunteers.  Local people will always be on hand to help their neighbors in this small, but mighty organization. The need for food never ends and so the beat goes on.

Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Zurcher

Interviewed by: Carla Steiger

Susan Zurcher, 69, is not one to sit still.  She likes working at The Foodbank because sorting food that comes in barrels to the warehouse is an active job.  She finds that the three hours per week she spends there are satisfying.  Susan stated, “I really like doing this straightforward job which helps people directly.”  Even a recent knee replacement surgery in April and frequent physical therapy has not held her back from pitching in.  She has been with The Foodbank for six months and feels that her work here is a good balance with her other volunteer job at Dayton History at Carillon Park archives where she volunteers 6 hours aweek.

Susan frequently travels around the world, taking in the sights and sounds of each new place she visits. In a recent trip to Madagascar, she was deeply struck with the level of poverty she saw everywhere.  “It wasn’t comfortable to be there as a privileged person, when people all around me had so little,” she said. This strengthened her belief, even more, that she wanted to help people in her own community receive access to their most basic of needs; food.

Recently retired, Susan spoke fondly of her days working for the City of Dayton Television Network, where she spent 14 years covering “groundbreakings, city commission meetings, ribbon cuttings and  police awards. We produced shows of special interest to citizens – just all different kinds of things that were City Hall related.” She said, “A very few of us did all the jobs.”

Her background also includes creating and editing Discover, a weekly, 4-page newsletter for Catholic primary school children when she worked for the Pflaum Publishing Company in the early 1970s.  When she was with the City of Dayton City Beautiful Council in the mid-seventies, Zurcher had the opportunity to photograph nationally-known sculptors who were creating temporary works downtown.

From that experience came an interest in art so strong that she quit her job to pursue her dream full-time.  Always fearless about new endeavors she said, “I rented a studio and created large scale sculptures that were composed of branches wrapped in wire.”  The Putnam Sculpture Collection at Case Western Reserve University describes her as a feminist “photographer, performance artist, and sculptor” whose wire and wood work, “resemble three dimensional drawings, and are meditations on the relationship between nature and technology.”

Zurcher’s interests also include non-fiction reading, both in book form and on audio recordings. Additionally, she is passionate about her participation in the Sacred Harp, Shape Note vocal group that sings at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Oakwood on a monthly basis.  Her eyes sparkle when she talks about it. The music was born from a 200 year-old American musical tradition that consists of a community of singers of all levels of expertise uniting to sing four-part hymns and anthems.

The balance of Susan’s work at The Foodbank and her musical involvement combine to give fulfillment to this terrifically talented, dynamic and intelligent woman.