Samaritan Outreach Services: Partner with a Mighty Mission

Mediaon October 2nd, 2017Comments Off on Samaritan Outreach Services: Partner with a Mighty Mission

“Tony loves to eat apples dipped in peanut butter. I am thankful for the delicious, crunchy apples and creamy jars of peanut butter most of all.” Trevor Davidson beams at me from under the lip of his baseball cap.  “It makes snack-time a lot easier and faster, especially during football season,” he adds. I glance at his shopping cart piled with colorful fresh produce – apples, oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli as well as meat, fruit juice, bread and of course, peanut butter. Trevor is 27 years old and he lives with his girlfriend Stacy in a trailer about seven miles outside of Hillsboro, OH.  A couple years ago, his parents passed away leaving him the legal guardian of his eight-year- old brother.  “Childcare was too expensive,” he says with a sigh. Earning minimum wage, Trevor could not afford to pay for childcare.  He had to stop working to take care of Tony. Trevor is a frequent visitor at Samaritan Outreach Services (SOS) which is the largest food pantry in Highland county.

SOS sits in the heart of Hillsboro, OH and serves close to 3,500 individuals per month. The mission of the agency is to offer food assistance to families in Highland County. Founded in 1989, SOS is one of the largest partner agencies of the Freestore Foodbank offering an impressive array of services including SNAP outreach, a home delivery program for homebound citizens of Highland county, a pet food pantry in partnership with the Humane Society, a nutrition program with cooking classes and a garden program called Green Thumb Project that distributes plants and seeds to those interested in growing their own garden. In addition, they provide tax filing assistance and help with financial management for those who need it. SOS also coordinates the Toys for Tots program in Highland and Fayette counties, distributing toys to more than 1,000 kids during the holiday season.

(L-R Receptionist Bette Rankin, Services Coordinator Jen McClure, and Board Member Tracy Abrams)

(L-R Receptionist Bette Rankin, Services Coordinator Jen McClure, and Board Member Tracy Abrams)

Until recently, SOS lacked refrigeration capacity, which impeded their ability to store or distribute fresh fruits, vegetables or protein. The situation improved dramatically, thanks to some creativity and lots of research.  SOS purchased a clever device called a CoolBot. This gadget, the size of a cell phone, tricks a window air-conditioner into running longer than it thinks it should.  In other words, the CoolBot transforms an insulated room into a walk-in cooler. With the help of this magical tool, SOS was able to create a 160 sq. ft. refrigerated room that could hold as many as seven skids of food. “This was a transformational addition to our facility that changed everything,” says Wade Hamilton, Executive Director. “Before we had the CoolBot installed, we could not get fresh produce because there was no place to store it. Now we have a place for it and that makes all the difference.”  This little addition the helped the pantry lower utility expenses, distribute more fresh produce, reduce spoilage and also reduce labor (stacking and moving).

The Freestore Foodbank supplies fresh produce and non-perishables to SOS on a weekly basis. All the smaller pantries in Highland County come to SOS to pick up fresh produce. “When the Freestore Foodbank trailer pulls into our driveway, our neigbors rejoice,” observes Hamilton. The individuals and families served by SOS such as Trevor are grateful for the fresh produce.  “My cart is now filled with nutritious food versus just canned goods and pasta. It really helps make ends meet and I am able to make sure my little brother is getting the nourishment he needs,” says Trevor. As his brother gets older, Trevor hopes to start working again. In the meantime, he is grateful to Samaritan Outreach Services and the Freestore Foodbank for their help.