Garrettsville – Neighbors helping neighbors.

That’s the basic premise that inspired local volunteers to establish the Nelson-Garrettsville Community Cupboard (NGCC) more than three years ago, in a storage area behind Isaac Mills’ Bakery at Nelson Circle. Now the NGCC has outgrown its original home and has moved into a new locale with double the floor space at 8147 Center Street, just off Main Street in Garrettsville.

1459282_636408759735612_1754375285_nAt an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, November 16, Michelle Elias reported that 502 residents from the James A. Garfield School District have received assistance from the NGCC to date. A total of 56,000 food and sundry items have been donated by neighbors for neighbors since this community outreach was established in 2010.

Elias described the typical recipients as “good, hardworking people who need help getting by.” They may be senior citizens on fixed incomes who suddenly have grandchildren to care for, people with serious medical issues and overwhelming bills, underemployed or laid off individuals with several mouths to feed… “It could be any one of us at any time,” she said.

Michael Elias says that the food cupboard serves 68-80 families in an average month; 80-100 families during the holiday season. This translates to 800-1,000 items out the door every week, so there’s a constant need to replenish stores. Demand is growing now that NGCC is located in a more visible high-traffic area downtown that’s more accessible than the previous location. Especially now that the SNAP federal food stamp program has been drastically reduced, the NGCC has seen a sharp increase in requests for assistance.

While donations from the community have maintained the outreach all along, even more supplies are now needed to keep up with increased demand. Businesses, individuals, churches, charitable organizations and school groups are all encouraged to hold food drives; especially this holiday season. Suggested donations include boxed, bottled and canned food; paper products; personal hygiene products; and household cleaners.

The new location is next to T&B Tools in a former warehouse at the rear of the historic Irwin Building. Developer Mike Maschek, who now owns the building and rents commercial space from it, renovated the office and storage space with new drywall, lighting, flooring, drop ceiling and central heat.  “Mike has been great to us,” Elias says. “He understands we’re a not-for-profit charity and does everything he can to help us out. Here he has created such a nice environment for both our volunteers and for our clients.”

To be eligible to receive food cupboard assistance once a month, residents must live in the Garfield school district. Needs are established through a screening interview with Portage County 211 First Call for Help (meeting income guidelines for federal and state food programs). Clients must bring a photo ID and proof of current residency.

The Community Cupboard can be reached at (330) 396-1565. It is open Mondays, 3-6pm; and Wednesdays, 9am-12 noon. It is closed on federal holidays and whenever James A. Garfield schools are closed due to bad weather.

An outreach of the Nelson United Methodist Church and a member agency of the Akron Canton Food Bank, NGCC is open to people of all faiths and races, as  “neighbors helping neighbors to Shut the Door on Hunger.”