At 98 years old, Mary Long's commitment to volunteer is strong.
At least once a month for nearly the last four decades, Long has walked through the doors at the Southside Lutheran Pantry. She used to stock the shelves and help make sure patrons found their food available and accessible, but these days her tasks are much simpler.
From smoothing out the crumpled plastic bags that shoppers will fill, to cleaning up the room where the volunteers take breaks, Long said, “It's very uplifting, not only to see that you are helping people, and it's just a pleasure to serve here and keep it running smoothly.”
It takes a minimum of 12 volunteers a day to efficiently run the facility. Typically, between 80 and 90 families go shopping each day. According to the United Way, one in six households in Central Ohio struggles to get enough to eat.
Long still actively organizes drives and projects to support the food pantry, and her volunteer efforts go far beyond their doors. The newly opened Faith Mission Community Kitchen was on her so-called “bucket list.”
Long said she wanted to see it built so badly that she asked all her friends and family to donate so that she would see it become a reality.
It is the only program in Central Ohio that offers three free meals a day every day of the year to anyone who is hungry.
Both the kitchen and the food pantry are programs supported by contributions made to the United Way of Central Ohio.
To learn more about United Way of Central Ohio, visit liveunitedcentralohio.org.