FAIRBORN — The Fairborn FISH pantry is no stranger to making sure its neighbors are supplied with a decent meal.
But for Thanksgiving in the year 2020, that task has never been more important. The Fairborn food pantry, which opens to clients two days a week, sent 650 families home on Tuesday with a turkey and all the “fixings” for a traditional Thanksgiving celebration.
Tuesday’s patrons included people from Dayton, Xenia, Springfield in addition to those from Fairborn. All went home with a turkey, instant potatoes, dressing, a holiday pie, and miscellaneous things like deli meat or dinner rolls.
“To have 650 families (roughly 2,600 individuals) come through in a few hours was … quite an experience,” said Jane Doorley, who manages Fairborn FISH with her husband, Bill.
The pantry normally sees about 70-80 people a week, but has risen to 120-150 a week, as the need for assistance has exploded since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In previous years, a busy day is 500-550 families,” Doorley said Wednesday. “Yesterday, to see 650 families was remarkable.”
The area of Fairborn where FISH is located is classified as a food desert, meaning at least 25 percent of residents don’t have sufficient transportation to a local grocery store. A high percentage of FISH’s clients work, but increasingly, their income has been disrupted due to the pandemic.
“A lot of our neighbors in need are in the service industry. They work two part time jobs, in this or that fast food, maybe in a nearby hotel,” Doorley said. “We’ve also seen an increase in young families, which is heartbreaking.”
Despite the increase in need, Doorley says the support from the community has swiftly matched it, as businesses, organizations, churches and individuals contribute goods, time, and treasure to the organization. Fairborn FISH relies 100 percent on donations to stay in operation. Kroger often donates deli meat to the pantry, and this year, the Dayton Foodbank provided the 650 turkeys for the giveaway.
“For us to buy 650 turkeys, that is a daunting expense. To get those 650 turkeys from the foodbank in Dayton was fabulous,” Doorley said.
Additionally, the volunteers at Fairborn FISH come from all walks of life. Jane and Bill had only expected a certain number of volunteers to come on Tuesday, but ended up having 35 people help distribute the food.
“The Fairborn community is amazing,” Doorley said. “We had a plan, like ‘this is who we’re going to have,’ but people kept showing up.”
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Dooley says the pantry is fortunate to have their volunteers, as a high number of pantries in the area have closed, or are struggling for volunteers due to the pandemic.
“I tell them, not only they are our ‘hunger heroes,’ but they are planting a tree in the shade of which they will never sit,” Doorley said.
Reach London Bishop at (937) 502-4532
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