Last time Merri Jo Ten Eyck came to Perrysburg Township Hall for the monthly food distribution program, she ended up with so much food one of the volunteer firefighters nearby had to carry the groceries to her car.
"They gave me a huge bag of 20 pounds of shredded chicken," Ms. Ten Eyck said.
Ms. Ten Eyck is one of many Perrysburg Township residents who crowd the township hall parking lot on the second Thursday of each month to fill grocery bags with everything from canned tomatoes and lemonade to bags of fresh bread.
Gloria Lamb came for the first time last week and was surprised at how much she would get to bring home. "This is enough food to last about a month," she said.
Perrysburg Township firefighter Art Eckhart organized the food distribution 20 years ago, said firefighter Bob Warnimont, a co-chairman of the program who has been volunteering his time for 15 years. With the help of donations from St. Rose Church in Perrysburg and local grocery stores, the program has grown to serve 216 families regularly, many of whom start lining up at 7 a.m., even though the doors don't open until 8:30 a.m., Mr. Warnimont said.
Residents in the 43551 zip code can drop by the township hall and fill out a form to get the food. They need to provide proof of residence, a Golden Buckeye Card, proof that they receive Social Security or get food stamps or some other kind of cash assistance, such as welfare, and they need to state their income, Mr. Warnimont said.
Volunteer firefighter Steve Harrison said helping to hand out the food seems like a natural extension of the community service he does at the fire department.
"You get a lot of 'God bless' from people - it gives you a little tingle when you do it," he said.
As he loaded up grocery bags for two residents who couldn't pick up the food themselves, firefighter Dave Bitz said he has a good time while helping out. Mr. Bitz drives to the residents' homes and delivers their food personally.
No one who fits the qualifications to receive the food has ever been turned away, said Ken Cappelletty, a deacon at St. Rose Church.
Barb Engle, who has volunteered every month for six years, said the program is an important boost to low-income families in the summer, when children can no longer benefit from free lunch programs at school.
"It's great to see people when they get something they need," she said.
"You've got to give to get, and get to give. "