Center’s food pantry plans fundraiser

The Food Pantry at the Cancer Dietary Initiative at the Tony Teramana Cancer Center is continuing its efforts to help economically struggling cancer patients there with a monthly food distribution supported entirely by donations from the public.

And that, according to Don Heiss, a volunteer of and secretary for the nonprofit established in May, does not go unappreciated.

The CDI offers an end-of-the-month food distribution at the center on the third Saturday of the month, helping by-invitation-only center patients. Items are delivered to the homes of patients too ill to come to a distribution or who have no transportation.

What started in May helping 23 families has since grown to assist between 45 and 50 families, Heiss said.

While donations of food and money have come in other ways, Heiss said staff and students at the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School in Bloomingdale have been on board from the get-go. “They have helped us from the very beginning,” Heiss said.

A “Quarter Frenzy” fundraiser hosted by JVS generated a $2,500 donation to the food pantry, and donated fliers prepared by students in the school’s multimedia program are helping to promote the food pantry’s next fundraiser.

It will be a spaghetti dinner sponsored by Meyers Family Diner, which is located on state Route 250, Harrisville. The eat-in or take-out dinner will be held there from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 22. Cost is by donation. The menu will include spaghetti and meatballs, salad and roll, dessert, coffee and soda. Harrisville is located 10 miles past the Harrison Community Hospital.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the dinner will benefit the food pantry, according to Heiss.

JVS Principal Tony D’Aurora and Treasurer Karen Spoonemore discussed the school’s participation with the outreach effort.

Spoonemore said JVS staff likes to get involved with community activities that help people and at the same time, offer an opportunity for people to come to JVS and see what it offers as a school of choice.

The school has helped with other causes in the past and found the CDI food pantry to be a perfect fit.

“When Don (Heiss) stopped and talked about the initiative, we thought that’s perfect, absolutely perfect, because our own Mr. D (D’Aurora) here has had his bout with cancer, so we thought everyone’s lives are touched by cancer so we thought that’s a perfect thing to do,” Spoonemore said of how the Quarter Frenzy fundraiser came to be, an idea of one of the JVS staff members.

The successful fundraiser involved volunteer time and donations from staff and students and generated $2,500.

“It raised money for CDI, and it brought people into our building which is what we want – to show off our nice facility and great staff,” Spoonemore said.

Students in the multimedia program designed and produced the spaghetti dinner fundraiser fliers.

“Part of what we teach at JVS is community involvement,” D’Aurora said. “Every one of our programs, that’s part of their curriculum, so when we can do things like this and get kids involved, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” D’Aurora said.

Heiss said JVS involvement with the food pantry is the springboard now for other schools to participate, too.

“The schools are now starting to get involved, learning more about us, so for next month for our distribution, Big Red is going to send students to help with our distribution,” Heiss said. “Every month I’m going to try to get a different school to come here and help with our distributions, plus they’re doing food drives for us, too.”

“The food pantry has really taken off,” Heiss said..

“There is such a need out there, and all the people who are involved really see how these people need this help, and we just hope we can continue because basically we operate just on donations,” Heiss said.

“We’re hoping that the more we get our name out there, the more people are going to see what we do and that it is a big need in our community,” he said.

The whole idea of the CDI is to provide comprehensive cancer care, which includes nutritional issues and social issues, Dr. Pervaiz Rahman, co-chief executive officer of the initiative, had explained when the food pantry was first launched.

“What we found was that a number of our patients were losing weight while they were on treatment, so I started asking them and what we found out was that that last 10 days of the month, the food ran out because the checks ran out, whether that was Social Security or Medicare,” Rahman said.

That led to the idea to provide groceries to last 10 days.

THE CDI also involves Susan Miller, the charity’s treasurer and the center’s oncology patient advocate, and board members June Crago and Diane Wasco.

Donations of nonperishable items can be brought to the cancer center or checks can be made payable to Cancer Dietary Initiative and mailed to Miller’s attention at the Tony Teramana Cancer Center, 3204 Johnson Road, Steubenville, OH 43952. Questions can be directed to Miller at (740) 264-8747.