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.
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.