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Senior Lifestyles

Lakemore resident retires from church food pantry

2/6/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Shirley Davis
Photo courtesy of Lakemore United Methodist Church
LAKEMORE — Shirley Davis didn’t let retirement stop her from being active. In 1992, one year after her job in food preparation at Goodyear Aerospace ended, Davis returned to do what she knew well by volunteering to prepare and serve hot meals twice a month at Lakemore United Methodist Church (UMC).

“I never thought I would be doing something like this after retirement,” said the Lakemore resident. “I was surprised when the pastor asked me, and I did have to think about it, but other ladies, who were older, convinced me to volunteer. It was a natural progression for me.”

For 10 years, Davis and a number of others who she said have long since retired or passed away, served a hot meal on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month and gave away baskets of groceries on a lottery basis.

“It was a lot of work, but it only took place twice a month,” she said. “Eventually, the help began dwindling, and we decided instead to begin a food pantry.”

Davis said the first month the church stopped serving hot meals, Akron Springfield Assembly of God started a meal program.

“They did not know we were closing our program, and we did not know they were starting one,” she said. “I was glad they could do it, because they are on the bus line, so a lot more people could get a meal.”

Davis said she became the coordinator of the food pantry, which she said first began with the distribution of one bag of groceries to those in need at the end of the month. Eventually, that process was changed to set up tables of food — “a pantry” — where clients could pick the food they wanted, she added, with turkeys and hams purchased during the holiday season for them.

Davis processed the paperwork submitted by clients requesting help, went to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to purchase items using donations collected from the congregation and others, loaded them into the car, and brought them back to the church to distribute to residents in need in Lakemore and Springfield on the last Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.

She said the food pantry served an average of 50 families each month, with a high of about 70 families, and a total of about 135 people served monthly.

“I have seen all types needing a hand,” she said. “A lot of people really appreciate the help and having somewhere close by they can go to. People often walk to the church to get their food. One older woman walks from across the street using a cane, and we walk her home carrying a box of groceries.

“One lady came in for six months to get groceries and suddenly stopped,” she added. “She came by later to give us $100. I was just stunned, and she told us her situation was much better and she wanted to help us. I never saw her again.”

In the past few years, Davis said she has seen “a lot more kids coming with the families seeking help.”

In addition to her work at the food pantry, Davis also worked three days a week for 15 years at Internal Medicine of Akron, in Downtown Akron, answering phones. She retired from that job two years ago.

On Dec. 20, after 21 years of serving food to others, Davis, now 82, retired as coordinator at the food pantry.

“I am stepping down because I thought it was time. My health is pretty good and I am active, and I drive a motorhome in the summer, but I am no spring chicken,” she said. “I will miss the interaction with the people, though.”

Lakemore Village Council and the Springfield Board of Trustees recognized Davis for her service to the community in December.

“Shirley has been such a steady and stable presence in this ministry for over 20 years,” said the Rev. Jeff Gindlesberger, pastor of Lakemore UMC. “Behind the scenes and without fanfare, she has consistently done what was necessary to make food available for needy folks. … Shirley has given herself to this work and to the people it has served. She has thought of what foods might be both nutritious and appealing. She has come before the congregation to ask for turkeys or hams or money to provide well for folks. She has invited other congregations to join in the effort. She has gone and picked up food and worked to get a system that is both efficient and fair. Shirley has been a blessing, and we are thankful for her service.”

Lakemore Village Councilwoman Laura Cochran and her husband, Michael Cochran, have stepped forward to take over the operations of the food pantry.

Davis said she was at the church Jan. 29 to stand by just in case she was needed, but she said everything went well.

Davis said her plans for her second retirement include more traveling using her motorhome to places in Ohio with a camping club she belongs to.

She also encourages anyone who can to help keep the food pantry going by donating money or items such as toilet paper, laundry soap, paper towels, dish soap, bar/face soap, tissues, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and nonperishable foods to the church, located at 1536 Flickinger Road.

For more information, call the church at 330-733-6531.

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