DARKE COUNTY — The Fish Choice Pantry will kick off our annual food drive during the 2017 Illumination Festival on Saturday, September 16.
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Fish in Darke County and the 9th Annual Feed Darke County Food Drive. The Darke County FISH organization began with a small group of community minded people who saw many unmet needs around and about Greenville. In December of 1967 they came together to begin an ecumenical outreach they simply called ‘FISH’. The fish ( <>< or Ichthus) was a symbol used by early Christians who might have been persecuted had their allegiance to the principles espoused by Christ been known.
The movement began in England where people were concerned about the lack of “neighborliness” in their communities. This movement rapidly spread around the globe, now existing as independent entities of neighbors helping neighbors in communities across the U.S. To get the word out to our community flyers were passed around Greenville asking people with needs, any need, to call the FISH number and make their request.
In the beginning, these willing servants provided services such as babysitting, driving people to doctor appointments, paying on utility bills, delivering groceries to homes, and everything in between! The Mitten Tree (donations of mittens, scarves and hats for Darke County children) was added during the Christmas season after a couple of years. A few years later it was decided the main needs were food and help with utilities and for several more years FISH’s main focus were those two needs.
FISH again changed their directives in 2000-2001 to mainly helping the Greenville area with food deliveries. In 2009 another change came and it was a big one! In the fall of 2009 FISH was moved to a location on Gray Avenue in Greenville and became a ‘choice’ pantry and also a 501©(3) or non-profit organization, making all donations tax exempt! Home deliveries were still made to people unable to come to the pantry due to illness or transportation, but the majority of our neighbors with food needs were encouraged to come and ‘shop’ at our pantry. The Fish Choice Pantry was open to the public twice a week for people to ‘choose’ food for their families instead of being met at the door with a bag of groceries they may or may not use. Clients could pick the foods to fit their individual dietary needs and wants.
In the fall of 2009 the initial Feed Darke County Food Drive was started by a then local pastor, Bill Lyle, who was very passionate about supporting this community effort. In 2012 The Choice Pantry moved from Gray Avenue to 400 Markwith Ave in Greenville, where it is now located.
Home deliveries are still made six days a week (Monday – Saturday) to ‘shut-ins’ by calling 937-548-2000. This is the same number made available to our neighbors back in 1967! The pantry is open to the public three times a week. Our open hours are: Monday: 1-2 p.m., Wednesday: 10-11 a.m. and Friday: 4-5 p.m.
Fish became a tax site for the Ohio Benefit Bank in the fall of 2015 by partnering with them to provide a free tax completion service to Darke and our surrounding counties. This is possible through a grant offered by the Ohio Association of Food Banks. Last year, alone, our site completed 994 tax forms for 511 clients and ranked 13 in the state.
“Fish continues to rely on our friends and neighbors for their support to keep our pantry stocked and open! We also still receive hundreds of gloves, hats and scarves each year through the Mitten Tree outreach. These items are donated to the Darke County Head Start. We’ve even added story books to this donation in the last couple of years! We could not have provided the necessary help needed in our community for the past 50 years without the generous support of our Darke County family!” said Director Kristi Cutarelli.
“Fish has received food and monetary donations from many of our local businesses, churches, organizations and individuals as well as from other counties and states, over the years. We have also received many hours of service from our dedicated volunteers. Choice Pantry volunteers logged over 2,500 hours in the pantry alone in 2016. We are always in need of help with sorting, stocking, cleaning, serving clients during open hours and delivering food to shut-ins. As you can see we have many, many supporters and are grateful for each and every one,” she said.
“If you would like to donate to the Feed Darke County food drive or volunteer your time, there are many ways you can do so. Are you are attending the Illumination Festival? Bring non-perishable food to the gate on your way in. You could organize a food drive for your company, club or church during the harvest season or any time during the year. Donations can also be dropped off in the receptacle located behind the food pantry at your convenience. Remember, donations to Fish can be deducted from your taxes!,” said Cutarelli.
Contact Kristy Cutarelli at 937-316-8420 if making a large or perishable donation or if you would like more information on how you can become involved with our food pantry, home deliveries or by becoming a tax counselor.