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Human Services site relocating near Clifford

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One of Bartholomew County’s four food pantries will close at the end of July.

Human Services Inc., a nonprofit organization, has announced that July 31 will be the last day its food pantry on Old Indianapolis Road, just north of the Flat Rock River bridge, will be open. In the past months, the facility has helped to feed about 400 to 500 disadvantaged families a month.

“Our board looked at duplication of services as we tried to stretch our dollars as far as we can,” said HSI Executive Director Debra DeBord. “There are three other food pantries in the community, as well as meal sites. So starting August 1, any person contacting our agency for assistance will be referred to Love Chapel, Salvation Army and the Community Center of Hope.”

Julie Begin, executive director of the Community Center of Hope, understands HSI is in the middle of moving to the former Cross Cliff Elementary School building on County Road 600N near Clifford. Begin says she’s not sure what impact the closing of the HSI pantry will have on the community.

If you can help

To make donations or pick up needed items, contact or visit the following local food pantries:

• Hope Food Bank: 546-4499; 543 Washington St., Hope.

• Love Chapel: 372-9421; 292 and 311 Center St.

• Salvation Army: 372-7118, 2525 Illinois Ave.; 372-0883, 2211 State St.

“It’ll probably increase our numbers,” she said. “The other three pantries will all try their hardest, do their best and stretch things as far as we can. But we’re at the point where everything is tight. It’s up to the community now to show their support.”

Donations to food pantries and food banks usually slow during the summer. Some demand is expected to drop when free and reduced-price school lunches become available again with the start of classes. However, the heaviest demand on food pantries traditionally comes during the fall and winter.

In May, the HSI pantry was seeing as many as 25 new clients a week, compared to one or two during the same period in previous years. Between March and April, the Salvation Army experienced an 18 percent increase in traffic. Some of that rise was attributed to extended operating hours.

DeBord noted that Gleaners Food Bank of Indianapolis sends a food truck once a month to High Tower Ministries on U.S. 31 to supply local pantries. Gleaners provides government commodities and edible items that food pantries can purchase for 14 cents a pound.

However, Love Chapel stopped accepting government commodities five years ago because recipients were required to give specific information about themselves before they were provided with food.

“There are a lot of rules and regulations that go with commodities,” Begin said. “Some pantries choose to opt out of that program. But we try to adhere to all state and federal guidelines so we can get as much as possible for the people in our areas.”

The HSI pantry has only one paid part-time employee. DeBord says her organization does not have any positions open for that person at this time.

She says most of her staff will start working out of the new location on Monday. The telephones will become operational in the former grade school that same day, while most equipment will arrive on Wednesday. Volunteers from Cummins have been helping the organization make the transition.

Besides the food pantry, Human Services Inc. offers services including a homeless shelter in Columbus, emergency lodgings, transitional support services and energy assistance. HSI also provides foreclosure counseling, weatherization programs and loans for small businesses. It also operates both the Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Bartholomew County.

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