SALEM - Some area 4-H members who witnessed how their food drive last year helped the less fortunate will collect food and donations again this Saturday at area Sparkle Markets.
Their hope is that the program they formed known as 4-H Feeds Ohio will become a statewide effort by next year, with 4-Hers in all 88 counties taking part on the fourth Saturday of July to benefit a nonprofit food provider of their choosing.
"You don't realize what the need is until you see it firsthand," Blue Ribbon Wranglers advisor Pat Adams said.
The club has a new name this year, but many of the same members, and their quest to collect food began last year with a visit to the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, meeting people who would benefit directly from their efforts.
"It made us a lot more grateful for everything we have," Blue Ribbon Wranglers president Stephanie Lowrey said. "It opened our eyes that people can get in bad situations and not everybody is bad."
Lowrey, 17, of New Springfield, goes to Springfield High School and took part in last year's food drive, held at nine Sparkle Market locations in Columbiana and Mahoning counties. This year they've expanded their efforts to 13 Sparkle Market locations from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties with five 4-H clubs participating.
Instead of just helping the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, which serves residents in the entire area, including Columbiana and Mahoning counties, they'll also be helping the Big Reach Center of Hope in Greenford and the Warren Family Mission.
Donation barrels and 4-H members and their folks and advisors will be posted at the following locations:
Columbiana County: Salem, Columbiana, East Palestine and Lisbon
Mahoning County: New Middletown, Western Reserve, Cornersburg, Boardman Market Street and Youngstown South Avenue
Trumbull County: Cortland, Champion and two locations in Warren
Besides the organizers and members from the Blue Ribbon Wranglers, other 4-H clubs participating include A Little Bit Country from Columbiana County, the Steel Valley Canines of Mahoning County and two clubs from Trumbull County.
Pat said the barrels may remain in place for the whole weekend for continued donations until they're picked up.
"It's a great opportunity to help others," his daughter, Miranda, said.
A 15-year-old South Range High School student from North Lima, Miranda serves as the club's vice president. Last year's food drive gathered 2,100 pounds of food and $700 in donations for the Rescue Mission.
Pat said he remembered hearing Miranda and Stephanie talking after they heard the results and wondering what the state of Ohio could do as a group. From there, he checked to see if that was even possible and Janice Hanna, OSU Extension Mahoning County Director and 4-H Youth Development, arranged for Miranda and Stephanie to do a presentation at a 4-H conference in Columbus.
Stephanie explained how their powerpoint talked about their visit to the Rescue Mission and how much it impacted them and then told about their food drive, how they pulled it off, how much it helped and how they wanted it to go statewide. Advisors from 11 other counties attended their class on what it would take to stage a food drive and ideas were thrown around for a name.
Blue Ribbon Wranglers reviewed everything and chose 4-H Feeds Ohio, giving a prize to members of Doggone Kids 4-H group out of Darke County for submitting the winning name. Other clubs in the state are holding their own food drives Saturday, but Pat wasn't sure how many and said they're hoping state 4-H officials will announce the food drive as an official program for next year.
Members of Blue Ribbon Wranglers visited the Rescue Mission again recently, this time taking a tour and serving a meal. One group served residents of the Rescue Mission, including children, women and men, while the other group toured, then they switched and the other group served the public who came in for a meal while the first group toured.
Stephanie's sister, 15-year-old Bailey, another Springfield student who serves as club treasurer, didn't visit the Rescue Mission last year, so this was her first experience at the facility. She described it as "a heart-breaking moment" just to see how many people need help.
"You become more grateful from it," she said.
Club secretary Emma Carr, a 13-year-old South Range High School student from North Lima, said it feels really good to know they're making a difference.
"Everyone should be doing it," she said.
Pat's wife Rhonda, another advisor for the club, suggested that kids and adults alike would benefit from visiting the Rescue Mission. She said the group made Easter baskets this year for the Rescue Mission, which is located in Youngstown, and they want to do something at Christmas.
Any other 4-H clubs interested in getting involved next year can contact Pat Adams at 330-692-3415.