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Second Harvest thanks Guard

Food bank honors unit finishing deployment, prepares for next

YOUNGSTOWN — A pillar in helping others, the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley took Tuesday to thank a network of volunteers: The Ohio National Guard.

“We could not do it without them,” said Mike Iberis, executive director of the food bank.

Agencies associated with the food bank are providing enough food for 20,000 people per week, which Iberis said could not be distributed without the National Guard.

“The fact that we had to pause our regular volunteers and the fact that the pandemic spiked the need for food, without the help of the soldiers here we never would have been able to get the food out” to Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, Iberis said.

Members of the guard’s 237th Support Battalion will be returning to civilian life. The 671st Support Battalion will begin deployment at the food bank through the end of December.

The soldiers were thanked with a luncheon Tuesday. But Chief Brandon Warner of Cortland noted that the gratitude has been ongoing since the assignment at the food bank began in March — with donated lunch or gas cards for those driving a distance to come and help.

Warner said up to 29 volunteers were present at one time, with 47 overall.

Oftentimes, members of the Ohio National Guard are assigned to wherever they’re heading, “but being it’s a different kind of activation. … We’ve never been activated locally,” Warner said. “This is the first time we’ve ever been able to do anything in our own community.”

This opportunity was unique, Warner explained, as the Army didn’t want to risk the health of anyone by sending soldiers to other assignments greater distances from home.

“It’s not every day you get to come back to your area and help your area,” Sgt. Noah Tomallo of Youngstown said. “The opportunity is life-changing.”

The assignment not only gave the soldiers a chance to see the impact of their work, but it also made the work worthwhile.

“It’s nice having a direct impact on the community,” said Spc. David Degan of Youngstown, adding: “When we do get to go to distributions and see the faces and the families in need and help … it’s what makes it worth it.”

Gratitude isn’t only from staff of the food bank, Warner said. “Community members always come up to us and thank us over and over.”

Before soldiers can thank community members for words of encouragement, thanks and support, they have driven away, Warner said.

Still, the chance to work close to home has been great.

“It’s not hard to do when they keep you going, make you want to wake up,” Warner said.

The food bank’s local network of 160 agencies is still working full time, Iberis said.

So far this year, 10.5 million pounds of food have been distributed.

Last year was a record-breaking year for Second Harvest. It distributed 11.5 million pounds of food.

Second Harvest thanks Guard

The seeing eye

NATIONAL GUARD UNITS CHANGING: Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley will open its doors 2 to 4 p.m. today to honor and thank the Ohio National Guard. The members of Ohio National Guard’s 237th Support Battalion, who have served full time at Second Harvest since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, will be returning to civilian life. The National Guard members have been instrumental in helping distribute food to member agencies and assisting with Traveling Food Pantry stops throughout the Mahoning Valley.

The Ohio National Guard’s 671st Support Battalion will begin its deployment at the food bank through the end of December.

INDUSTRIAL WORKERS: Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company housing preservationist, Tim Sokoloff, will share his efforts to restore and preserve the nation’s first pre-fabricated industrial workers’ planned community 10 a. m. Saturday at Kravitz’s Deli Meeting Room, 3135 Belmont Ave., Liberty, for the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society.

Admission is $5 for members and $6 for non-members. Reservations are suggested. Walk-ins admitted based upon seat availability. Seating is limited due to social distancing. Call 330-726-8277 for reservations or for information.

Today

• Tuesday Morning Recovery — 10:30 a.m., Meridian Place, 1184 N. Meridian Road, Youngstown.

• Tuesday Night Surrender — 7:30 p.m., Fellowship Hall, 2555 Rush Blvd., Youngstown.

• Alzheimer Assistance and Referral Network Support Group — 6 p.m., Girard Public Library, 105 E. Prospect St., Girard.

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