Guard members find Southeast Ohioans have always been #InThisTogether
Story by 1st Lt. Caroline Pirchner, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs
LOGAN, Ohio (04/20/20)
For nearly a month now, nearly 500 Ohio National Guard members have been deployed to various food banks across the state to help with food packaging and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing the impact of food insecurity up close for the first time. For Ohio Army National Guard Pfc. Jayden Rutter, who is supporting his regional foodbank, it hits much closer to home — in more ways than one.
Rutter, a Soldier with Company F, 237th Support Battalion, grew up in neighboring Vinton County, one of about 10 counties supported by the Southeast Ohio Foodbank, which is based in Logan. He is no stranger to the hardships in his community or in his own life while growing up in Southeast Ohio. Vinton County has Ohio’s second highest child poverty rate among 88 counties, according to the most recently available U.S. Census Bureau statistics (2014-2018).
“We, down here, don’t have much,” Rutter said. “I’ve seen people struggle my whole life, and now that I’m able to actually get behind the scenes and help put things together, it really means a lot.
“For a long time, we didn’t even have a grocery store. So everything was very challenging,” he said.
The region is comprised of multiple smaller communities and towns. Because of this, Rutter says that everyone seems to know everyone. He has seen a lot of familiar faces pass through the distribution lines during his time with the food bank.
“It feels really nice seeing people I recognize, knowing that they’re well enough to come out and get the food, and knowing that I can help them,” Rutter said. “There’s been many times where they’ve helped me personally so, I feel like it’s just great to give back.”
In addition to the help the Ohio National Guard is providing to the citizens of Southeast Ohio, Nelsonville-York City Schools staff members are delivering meals to students using buses and, in some instances, their personal vehicles when the area is not easily accessible.
Deven Berry, a food laborer at Southeast Ohio Foodbank, has been proudly serving his community for nearly five years. He and his family have always valued hard work and helping neighbors in need. Berry started working at the food bank when he was just 16.
“When I was little we weren’t the richest family. … I kind of know what it’s like to go to a food bank and get food,” Berry said.
Berry says many of his family members were in the military and that he looks up to the Ohio National Guard Soldiers who are helping the Southeast Ohio Foodbank staff by picking, packing and delivering meals to the elderly and surrounding humanitarian organizations.
“I like having you guys here,” Berry said. “It means a lot.”
In approximately the last month, the Ohio National Guard has distributed more than 7 million pounds of food to Ohioans across the state. COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty to not just Southeast Ohio, but in all 88 counties, and the Ohio National Guard is working tirelessly alongside their new food bank family members to ensure food on the table is not a concern for those who seek help.
“That’s how we are in Southeast Ohio,” Berry said. “We take care of each other.”