New Director Takes Charge of Salem Community Pantry | News, Sports, Jobs
SALEM – Salem’s community pantry is alive and well, with new management inviting those in need to come in, grab a cart, and shop for their choices.
“I just want to show the community that we’re still here – we can’t wait to serve the public,” Salem’s new community pantry manager Don Yeasted said.
When the pandemic hit last year, the pantry closed, then finally reopened as a drive-up operation. Two weeks ago, the doors opened for premium indoor shopping.
For now, bosses and volunteers must wear masks indoors. Yeasted said 98% of the volunteers had been vaccinated, but the board decided it was a good decision for now to still need masks. They also encourage social distancing and try to keep only eight shoppers on the pantry floor at a time.
The pantry will not be open on Mondays due to statutory holidays, but normal hours of operation are 9 a.m. to noon Monday and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. Guests can come twice a month and must be residents of zip code 44460, which includes Columbiana and Mahoning counties. They must also have an identity document.
Before the pandemic, the number of families served was 140 to 150 families per week, but now the number has dropped to 50 families.
“Disappointing numbers, but I think once people start to come back they will realize they need us” Yeasted said, noting that some of the pandemic programs are being phased out.
He said the pantry is ready for more people to come. The flow of how people shop has changed and it is still working on further changes to the operation.
Jackie Berthold, who served as interim interim director for two and a half years, said Yeasted and new board chairman Tom Beck. “are ready to grow and mature the pantry.”
Yeasted had just retired from his career as a social worker at Elkton Federal Prison in May 2019 when he came to his first pantry distribution and volunteered. He had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and knew there was a need, and he felt it was very important to get to know the city again.
“I knew we had to help people have a better life for themselves. I knew the pantry was a good way to achieve this goal ”, he said.
Graduated from Salem High School in 1985, he received a BA in Criminal Justice / Public Service from Akron University in 1990 and got a job with Columbiana County Adult Probation. He became the prison case manager in 1997 when it opened and remained there until his retirement.
His wife, Dr. Genie Wendel, is an audiologist, and he has a 9-year-old daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law. He also has two sisters and a deceased brother.
While in college, he volunteered with Big Brothers / Big Sisters in Summit County. He is a member of the Lisbon 65 Masonic Lodge, the Emmanuel Lutheran Church, and a retired member of the local American Federation of Government Employees. In January, Mayor John Berlin appointed him to the Salem Civil Service Commission.
“Volunteering is in my DNA, it’s inherent in my blood” Levuré said.
Berthold had shown him different parts of the operation as a volunteer. He became vice chairman of the pantry board in January and by May he was convinced to become manager.
“The pantry is in good hands” Berthold said.
As a founding member and volunteer she has been there since the start in 2009. Yeasted said she was a good mentor and that the boards and volunteers over the years have established a good foundation. Berthold said the transition with Yeasted has been good.
Almost all of the volunteers have returned since the pandemic, with at least 20 for distributions and more volunteering to stock shelves or collect donations from local businesses, which happens four times a week.
Giant Eagle, Marc’s, Aldi’s, and Walmart donate food weekly, and Sparkle donates directly to the Second Harvest Food Bank. They also receive donations from Dollar General. On average, they receive 3,500 to 4,500 pounds of food per week from local stores, including produce and non-perishable items. Food is also purchased from Second Harvest.
Local vendors sometimes call, like Pepperidge Farm, to donate bread, including 350 loaves of bread in the past month. The Pantry continues to receive donations from local churches, schools, Salem North and West Health Centers, Berkshire Hathaway, Salem Rotary, Salem Kiwanis and other organizations. Anonymous donors will donate money for specific items or whatever is needed. They recently received formula milk and cat food.
“The community has been so overwhelmingly supportive of the pantry over the years,” Levuré said.
The Pantry has partnerships with two local farmer’s markets, Rea’s and Huffman’s.
The Salem Community Foundation has a Pantry Fund where donors can direct funds. Salem Community Pantry has a Facebook page and there is a new email at [email protected] Call 330-332-5166 if you are interested in volunteering.
Yeasted said they are always looking for better ways to serve the community. One thing they don’t plan on changing is the location at the corner of Vine Avenue and East Third Street, as it’s centrally located, and it’s also convenient for walkers. Parking is an issue, but the pantry is allowed to use the KSU downtown parking lot after hours.
Some may not know it, but he said the building has some history as well, as the location of the country’s first Plymouth dealership. He wants to honor the building for what it represents, it is the history of the city of Salem and the county.