Peanut butter, pasta and soap sat on the shelves. Then more boxes marched in: drinks, noodles, even crocheted blankets and little red stockings stuffed with lotion. The volunteers at the Windham Junior/Senior High School food bank quietly chatted as they toted goods from the trolley to the shelves. Admiring remarks hailed the arrival of the crocheted blankets.
Each Friday, about 30 students crowd the medium-sized room during lunchtime as they come to shop for goods. The food bank opened its doors to the 230 students in grades five through 12 two weeks ago. Students generally leave with two grocery bags of items for their families.
Chad Froelich, Windham Bible Church’s pastor, and his wife Karyn rushed to an 8:30 appointment at the Akron-Canton food bank that morning to pick up goods. For some of it, the school’s pantry pays; for other items, the Akron-Canton Foodbank provides freely. Sometimes the free goods are exciting because each Thursday when the Froelichs trek down to pick up the food, items at the free marketplace also surprise them (like bread and milk).
Donations and assistance from the Windham Bible Church, a Christian Missionary Alliance church, currently fund the school food bank. Chad Froelich’s ambition consists of getting to know students and spreading hope to dejected people — as the sign at his church declares, no matter what, there’s hope.
Katerina Shew, one of the students acquainted with Froelich and the other volunteers, makes the food bank her senior project. On Fridays, she sticks the students’ names on bags, advising them during their shopping. Laura Amero, Windham’s assistant superintendent, also steers some of the kids away from less-necessary items and tries to ask what they think their families would need. Volunteers make sure bigger packages of chicken go home to bigger families and more milk is sent to families with babies.
Amero pointed to the toothpaste and soaps, commenting how swiftly those items disappeared from the shelves. December is in fact soup and hygiene month for the pantry. Amero, who runs the food bank with the church, aims to eventually serve hot meals to students or families. She desires to broaden the food bank to the elementary school too.
“Miss Amero, I can not thank you [enough],” Amero remembered one high school boy telling her, his genuineness evident in his face. “And that was enough — that’s all I needed,” she said, happy to see their pleasure. She worried students might feel self-conscious, but the family-like tone of the school soothes the atmosphere.
“We’re like, ‘Guys, if you need something, we don’t care — please come get it,’” she said.
Crystal Hickman, who works at the school and also attends Windham Bible Church with her husband, Tom, said volunteers wish to bolster more families with the food bank. Hickman, who volunteers, told of a little boy who requested dish soap. “That’s something we take for granted at our house,” she said, a trace of a crack to her voice. “So those things really tug at your heart.”
The food bank welcomes any student, and mostly the ones using it really do need it. No limit restricts the shoppers, though Hickman said the volunteers might inquire if someone decided to take all the Gatorade bottles. But for those who aren’t as in need, even a cookie might just gladden their day, Hickman said.
“I told everybody, the first week we were open, we had cookies and we had pastries, and the kids took those, but at the end of the day, we didn’t have one toothbrush, we didn’t have one tube of toothpaste,” she said. “They took what they really needed. And we had cookies left over.”
The food bank is accepting donations of food and nonfood items and paper or plastic bags. Donations can be dropped off at the board office during school hours.