SIDNEY — Despite uncertainty surrounding stricter guidelines implemented by the state in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, residents in Shelby County can count on Agape’s doors remaining open.
“For us, it will be (business as usual); for the people coming in, it’s the fear of, what do we need, how do we do this, and it’s just a matter of come down, register, we’ll ask — simply online registration, we’ll do that for you,” Agape Distribution Director John Geissler said.
According to Geissler, Agape has received a rash of calls within the last couple of weeks as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has implemented stricter masking ordinances on businesses and a 10 p.m. curfew until Dec. 10, from people concerned that the food bank would have to close its doors in the event of another shutdown. While no shutdown will occur for Agape, the food bank has seen an increase in families utilizing assistance over the last several months — before the pandemic, Agape was serving roughly 1,700 individuals in Shelby County and Geissler estimates that number to have increased to nearly 3,000. In addition to this, demand as well as stockpiling has increased the amount of inventory Agape needs to maintain a safety net.
“We’re running, probably — we have to have a truckload every five days, one tractor-trailer load every five days to survive. That’s up from, we had maybe eight days before COVID, and now it’s five days,” Geissler said. “And then, supplies are getting harder to find across the country. With the supplies being more sparse, and I think it’s based on people stocking up in case of a shutdown — people are buying more, and they’re stocking up, so supplies that are normally donated, they’ve just disappeared. Even Feeding America, they don’t have much of a shopping list at all. We can’t find the groceries; we’re looking across the country for groceries now.”
Another cause of increased demand is the need for volunteers. Before the pandemic, families utilizing Agape’s food bank could come to the distribution center and shop freely for what they needed. Now, to comply with state regulations and ensure the safety of customers, volunteers help fill orders. What would normally take 16 hours of manpower day-to-day before the pandemic now has increased to 42 hours of manpower each day.
“We have to fill the shopping cart, we have to do the shopping, we have to do the bag, and we have to take it to the car. Volunteers come in to help, but if we don’t have the volunteers, we just can’t stay alive. We can’t stay alive. We need volunteers to make this happen. Volunteers are the ones that make it happen,” Geissler said.
Geissler also mentioned that Agape currently is not following strict income guidelines, and is there to offer assistance to anyone in Shelby County who needs it.
“We are open to everybody. Anybody that needs groceries, we will help. If they need groceries, we want to serve them. That’s the key to this because families are just getting stuck as they lose jobs or things slow down,” Geissler said. “We want to make it hard to go hungry in Shelby County. That’s what we’re all about.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or in need of utilizing Agape’s services can contact Agape Distribution at 937-498-4368 or visit Agape Distribution at 209 Brooklyn Ave., Sidney.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.