HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) — A devastating fire is bringing the Hilliard community together to help a food pantry reopen its doors.
On Sunday, a massive fire broke out in the warehouse that housed both the Life Community Church and Hilliard Food Pantry Plus. No one was hurt, but there was a lot of damage.
On Wednesday, volunteers came together to help the pantry move forward. Some volunteers say the pantry is special to them. “It’s just a wonderful place to be and it’s sort of heartbreaking that it was all gone in a minute,” Food Pantry Volunteer Jessica George said.
George volunteered for the Hilliard food pantry since 2020. “If you want your faith in humanity restored this is the place to come because the volunteers are fantastic. The people who work here are fantastic. Our members are wonderful,” George said.
Wednesday afternoon volunteers sorted through boxes of items left damaged by the smoke. “It’s sad, but we’re getting rid of the items that we can no longer use and we’re discerning what to keep what we can wash, and basically, we have to throw away all food, anything baby related,” Hilliard Food Pantry Executive Director Erin West said.
“It’s pretty great to see how many people are willing to come together and pitch in. I mean, it’s the middle of the day on a Wednesday. It’s not the easiest time for people to just drop everything they’re responsible for and be here to help but they are,” George said. A battalion chief with the Norwich Township fire department says that it is very likely that the fire will cause will remain undetermined.
“There was a tremendous amount of devastation and it will take some time to review the evidence and put the pieces together,” Battalion Chief Jeff Warren said. “Right now our non-investigation resources are fully committed to assisting the pantry in getting functional. There is a proven need, week after week. We need continued support from our community and surrounding communities to meet the need.”
Despite the devastation, the food pantry will be able to move back into this space once repairs are made. “They are dehydrating the buildings so that all of the moisture is out of the space so we can avoid the mold. Then the next step will be well how do we fix the space? There was a firewall between the warehouse and us. So we were fortunate not to have actual fire damage,” West said.
She says the damage is from water and smoke. The state fire marshal is the lead investigator on the fire. On Thursday, the pantry will hold a pop up in the Life Community Church parking lot from 5 to 8 p.m. “It’ll be a little different than it has been in the past. There may be less fresh produce. There won’t be as much refrigerated product even though a local grocer has given us a refrigerated truck,” West said.
There will be the basics, and it won’t count towards the two visits allowed per month.