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Community: youngest members of the family

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Community News

Published on October 26, 2011 with No Comments

It was a beautiful fall day in Hobart.

Leaves chased themselves in colorful swirls along the muted streets.

Lawnmowers hummed throughout the city. Scary yard decorations seemed to multiply by the hours. Mums suddenly appeared in pots near doorways.

And a fleet of pickup tricks trolled the neighborhoods, with lively bunches of teens sitting on the tailgates, on alert for grocery bags on a doorstep or at curbside.

The truck beds filled then filled again then filled again in each neighborhood.

At the sighting of a bag awaiting pickup, someone would shout and another teen would hop off and gather the harvest.

It was a selfless effort. It was neighbor helping neighbor and young people facilitating it all.

The Hobart Kiwanis, for more than 25 years, have made these runs for the Hobart Food Pantry.

For the past five years, Larry Barrasas has coordinated the event. A youth league coach, lunchroom helper and proud Hobart resident, he said the effort swells each fall.

“I start by talking to the kids in schools,” Barrasas said. 

He admits it doesn’t take much convincing. Teens who participated in previous years are all in for another round. The high school basketball team sent 17 players. The Kiwanis’ Key Club, the Middle School Builders’ Club all signed up, he said.

“And the ROTC is another tremendous group helping out,” Barrasas said. 

“The main point I make in my speeches is how important volunteering is. These are are a good group of kids. They get it.”

From the youngest to the oldest, the family of the community comes together with business community members helping.

“Without Strack and Van Til’s and Wise Way, forget it,” Barrasas said.

Strack’s donated bags. The fliers had to be attached when the bags were distributed a few days in advance of the event.

“Over the past two weeks we had seniors stapling bags,” he said.

“The biggest thing from when I started five years’ ago the biggest thing is now we were able to put out 8,5000 bags throughout the city.”

Like many cities in America, layoffs and downsizing has hit the middle-income families hard. 

“Yet we collected the most food in the blue-collar neighborhoods,” Barrasas said. He is well-aware one guy who accepted food donations last time around and who is still unemployed found a way to give back with four bags of food for the drive.

“We have a lot of families where the wage-earner has been laid off six months,” Barrasas said. “The numbers of families have moved from 80 to 250 in just the time I have been involved.

“And yet, they are reluctant to ask. It is also amazing, as a coach of youth leagues, it is amazing when you start to talk to a lot of these children, how aware they are f not having medical coverage or they know hunger.

“And the ones who help collect for the food drive, why you hardly hear of them in the news, except for your newspaper. What really struck me is that they’re giving and they’re receiving something money can’t buy, this experience will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

The Hobart Food Pantry has been open since 1982. Theresia Larimore has been in charge for the past dozen years. After the one-day food collection, she spent the following week at the Hobart Strack and Van Til’s accepting more donations at space provided by the store.

“It’s our biggest collecti0on for the year,” Larimore said. “Though we do accept donations all year. In fact, February is usually our leanest month.”

She joins on the praise of the young folks participating in the citywide food drive.

“Absolutely,” she said. “And most of the groups who do come to us do take ownership in their own group; whether it be a church group or youth group or social group in town.

“They organize their group and they get to work. They bring their own people and that really helps us out.”

She has a great belief system and that includes and innate reliance on her hometown.

“We actually have a large support base in Hobart so we are more lucky than other food banks. We do not accept one dollar from any government agency; no one church sponsors us. But, when I am down I just know we will be provided for.

“What is worrying is the increase of clients. People are very generous in Hobart but the increasing numbers of clients is worrisome.”

She said she has learned a new term: Food insecurities.

“It means, across all levels of economic standing, all religions, all cultures, people are experiencing something they never had to deal with before,” she said. “It is seeping into all the classes.”

When money is donated, the pantry will go to stores that sell to them at cost, which stretches what budget they have.

“The city as a whole, being totally funded by community that’s what makes Hobart special,” she said. “And that does say a lot for community.”

For more information about the Kiwanis in Hobart, call 219-942-6338 or visit  www.kiwanisfwb.org.

For more information about the Hobart Food Pantry, call 219-947-7779.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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