Editor’s note: This is the second and final story in a series highlighting the mission and people behind the Fairborn FISH Food Pantry.
FAIRBORN — While the neighbors who utilize the Fairborn FISH Food Pantry benefit from its services, the 57 volunteers who keep the operation in motion take something away from the experience as well.
“They’re our friends,” volunteer Patty Westerwelle said. “A lot of the times, we hurt [with them] because we know their story.”
Volunteer Adrian Davoli told a story in which a Papa Johns delivery driver once arrived at the FISH door with 30 to 40 pizzas in hand, saying it was a mistaken order.
“He said ‘you guys were here for me when I needed to get back on my feet, so this was the first place I thought of,’” Davoli said. “We had hot pizzas for everyone that day.”
They’ve observed some neighbors avoid the food pantry because they “don’t want to take away from others who need it worse” and other neighbors who are able to get back on their feet later on and become volunteers themselves.
The volunteers understand that sometimes it’s easy to judge others. However, part of what they’ve taken away from their volunteer experience is a lesson.
“I know what it’s like to go without,” volunteer Rita Kemper said. “Sometimes I’ll join them and cry with them.”
“It teaches you to look inward and judge yourself and become better,” Kemper added.
Volunteers will sometimes observe neighbors avoiding certain items in the pantry simply because they don’t know how to cook it. One of the volunteers, Richard Strode, is a retired chef and takes the time to teach them how they can create meals out of the unknown ingredients.
“It just reinforces what we’re trying to do — educate them so they’re self-reliant,” Strode said. “Some of them never had the opportunity to stand on their own feet and they learn little by little.”
Another volunteer, Paul Shadowens, plays Santa at community events, and gives away his time over the holiday season at the FISH Food Pantry to give joy to the children who visit the pantry by dressing up as the big man himself. Meanwhile, volunteers Becky Plisch and Bessie Shimp, are described as preferring to “fly under the radar.” Manager Jane Doorley recognized their kindness and the soothing nature that they give to the neighbors by using their voices and offering a warm hug. Treasurer Gail Olt and Secretary Harold Zimmerman have been volunteering since the organizations founding.
“The people who come here are beautiful people,” Doorley said, referring to the neighbors and volunteers.
At the same time, they’ve observed neighbors helping neighbors — giving rides, and learning that an individual is unable to clean their own home and exchanging contact information so that another neighbor can come over and clean it for them.
“It’s a really loving atmosphere,” volunteer Sandy Garrett said.
At the heart of it all? Several of the volunteers gave a nod toward managers Bill and Jane Doorley.
“Bill and Jane really go above and beyond here to make everyone feel loved,” Davoli said. “They’re the heart and soul of it all and they work tirelessly. It’s the first thing they think about in the morning and the last thing they think about before they go to bed at night. Any avenue they can pursue to help others — they will, and it rubs off on the rest of us.”
However, Bill and Jane aren’t willing to take the credit.
“The Dayton Food Bank does an evaluation of all the local food banks. They’re always in awe of our facility and say we have a fabulous building,” Bill said. “They also say we have the strongest volunteer network. There’s 57 and they’re the glue who holds it all together.”
To make a donation to the Fairborn FISH Food Pantry, stop by the facility, located at 1149 N. Broad St., between 1-4 p.m. Tuesday or Friday, or call 937-902-5393 to arrange an appointment. Volunteers spoke specifically about needing personal care items to give away this holiday season.
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.