GREENVILLE – Since December 1967, one organization’s mission to serve and help the people in this community has been steadfast. A group of four couples banded together to start a food pantry and it was housed in a closet on the third floor of a local church. Today, Fish Choice Pantry serves nearly 6,000 people yearly.
The organization originally known as Fish, has continued to grow and change over the years to better serve the needs of the community. Originally, Fish provided babysitting, helped pay utility bills, made emergency runs to hospitals and offered a food pantry. “In 67 it started with a full gamut of whatever people needed,” said Kristy Cutarelli, director of Fish Choice Pantry. They soon realized the main things people needed in Darke County were food and help with utility bills.
As the utility bills grew higher, the $25 the organization gave barely put a dent in the bill. Cutarelli recalls the years she worked at DP&L and one of the key figures in the success of the Fish organization, Hazel Blanchard, would come in almost daily to make a payment on somebody’s bill. Utility bill assistance was eventually dropped.
In 2009, Cutarelli was working on her church’s food pantry when she received a visit from Blanchard. Cutarelli said she was learning more about Choice Pantries and Blanchard wanted to step back from her duties with Fish. The discussion led to combing the two pantries and developing a Choice Pantry. Fish originally provided home delivery six days a week and gave families a bag of food that they may or may not eat. Through the Choice Pantry, families can come in and pick what they need. They still offer home delivery, but have cut it back to five days a week.
Fish Choice Pantry opened their current location, 400 Markwith Ave., Greenville, in 2012. They are open on Monday, 1-2 p.m., Wednesday, 10-11 a.m. and Friday, 4-5 p.m. Monetary donations and non-perishable food donations keep the shelves stocked. Monetary donations also allow them to purchase perishables, such as eggs, milk, bread, meat and margarine. Wal-Mart donates food on Monday and Wednesday, which gives shoppers an opportunity to get fresh fruit.
There is no financial stipulation for clients. The only stipulation is they must be a Darke County resident. Clients are able to shop at the pantry once every 28 days. They average 100 new families each year.
“Our shelves are getting very, very low right now,” Cutarelli said. With most of their food and monetary donations coming from the harvest season to the end of the year, Fish Choice Pantry will kick-off its Feed Darke County Food Drive on Sept. 21 at the Illumination Festivals. Festival goers are encouraged to bring in non-perishable food items and fill the collection bins at the front gate.
Churches, schools and other organizations are encouraged to set up collection bins for Fish Choice Pantry and help fill the shelves throughout year. Cutarelli said she makes a lot of phone calls trying to set up collection sites, but realizes she can’t get to everyone and encourages persons interested in helping to call.
Fish Choice Pantry has the same phone number they started with 52 years ago, 548-2000. Call that number if you need help or information. If you would like to volunteer, make a large donation or make a perishable food donation, call 316-8420.
Contact Editor Ryan Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 569-0066. Read more news, features and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.