YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A special thank you celebration took place on Monday for members of the Ohio National Guard who have been helping the Second Harvest Food Bank during the pandemic. Their hard work made all of those local traveling food pantries possible.
“Without The Guard, it would have been totally impossible. We never would have been able to distribute the amount of food that we distributed,” said Mike Iberis, with the Second Harvest Food Bank.
That long deployment is about to come to an end later this week for Ohio National Guard members, but they tell us they would not have wanted to be anywhere else.
As they’ve been doing for the last 14 months, Guard members were hard at work Monday morning, sorting and boxing items for the Second Harvest Food Bank’s next distribution.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine called up the Ohio National Guard early last year to help with the pandemic — no one was ever ordered to be here.
“They asked for volunteers and all these soldiers raised their hands and said, ‘I’m willing to put my life on hold and come, come help the food bank,'” said W.O.C. Allen Fullmer, with the Ohio National Guard.
To thank them, Second Harvest’s directors hosted a lunchtime pizza party Monday afternoon.
With The Guard’s help, the food bank passed out a record-shattering 15.5 million pounds of food last year, helping people make ends meet, especially during the long shutdown.
“This is what a lot of us joined for, you know? We all wanted to go running through the mud and doing the ‘Hooah!’ ‘Hooah!’ Army posters, but we joined to help our neighbors,” Fullmer said.
Those who run the food bank say The Guard’s involvement went far beyond what we saw out in the field.
“Unloading and sorting food and getting it ready to go out and be distributed, and then, of course, being out actually in the distribution points,” Iberis said.
As the worst of the pandemic appears to be over, many of the food bank’s regular volunteers are returning, allowing the soldiers to return to the lives they had 15 months ago.
“For some of us, that’s Youngstown State, that’s Kent State University. For myself, I’ll be going back to my civilian career,” Fullmer said.
While most of them have no new assignment just yet, they’ll be ready whenever it comes.