It’s not just food to eat. It’s really important that I try to manage my diet. Catholic Charities helped me because I don’t have to go out and buy the cheapest food possible, which may not be good for my health. ~Gary

The recent economy in Mansfield has been challenging for many who live in the area. Once a flourishing manufacturing town, Mansfield now struggles with high unemployment rates and low household income levels after many factories closed or moved out of the area.

Living up to its name, the HOPE Food Pantry in Mansfield is a client-choice food pantry that serves hundreds of people a week. Clients are able to choose which food options work best for them and their households in a grocery store setting. This ensures that the people who come to the pantry are served with the utmost dignity and respect. To learn more about the HOPE Food Pantry, click the video below:

In a line full of people, Gary was not shy about sharing his story. “Anything I can do to help, since you guys helped me,” he said with a friendly tone and a smile.

In April 2012, Gary made a brave decision to start going to Catholic Charities’ HOPE Food Pantry in an effort to supply food for his family.

Encouraging healthy lifestyles

A few years ago, Gary moved to Mansfield from Marion, Ohio, after finding a new job and a place for his family to live in Mansfield.[singlepic id=130 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Not long after moving, there was a sudden downturn in the economy, and his family’s income took a big hit.

“I sell appliances and with the economy the way it is right now, people aren’t buying things. Sometimes I don’t make enough money to cover the bills, the food, and the rent,” he says.

The transition of moving to a new town and the challenges of a slow economy not only impacted Gary’s income, but his health was at risk, too.

“I’m a diabetic, and I was waiting for my (public) prescription assistance to be approved. I needed medication to get me through until then.”

His doctor referred him to Catholic Charities while he waited for his assistance. “I needed my insulin, and Catholic Charities paid for it. If I didn’t get the insulin, I probably would’ve been in the hospital, if not worse.”

The HOPE Food Pantry was also able to help Gary maintain a healthy lifestyle. “It’s not just food to eat. It’s really important that I try to manage my diet.”

“Catholic Charities helped me because I don’t have to go out and buy the cheapest food possible, which may not be good for my health.”

A Powerful Force

After coming to the pantry for over a year, Gary sees the services of Catholic Charities as nothing short of a blessing.

“It’s just amazing when you sit down and look at what you’ve prayed for,” he says. “What you have and what you don’t, it all adds up. I think prayer is probably the single most powerful thing in the world. Without God, I wouldn’t be here today. Without God in my life, I would be dead right now.”

Gary’s advice to other families who are going through tough times is clear: “Don’t be embarrassed because you need help. Sometimes we get in the way of ourselves and you can’t let pride get in the way of helping yourself or your family.”

Barb Johnston relies on close to a dozen medications and oxygen assistance to help her get through the day. She battles high cholesterol, high blood pressure and kidney disease. While her doctor told her to eat low sodium and low fat foods, she is now taking her efforts to stay healthy a step further with the help of Catholic Charities’ new Wellness Works Project.

Along with more than 150 people who have participated since July, Barb has found help determining which particular foods are good and which are harmful for her health conditions.

“It’s very beneficial,” Barb says. “I’ve incorporated the information into my daily diet. The information I was given was very specific and outstanding. It lists all of the different types of food, such as those that have lower sodium versus higher sodium.”[singlepic id=61 w=320 h=240 float=right]

“I’m making better choices for myself,” she adds.

Catholic Charities launched the Wellness Works Project in response to a recent Richland County Community Health Assessment, which showed the most widespread health issues are heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Other common conditions are digestive disorders, asthma and allergies.

The project helps Richland County residents better understand how their diet affects their health. Trained volunteers from the medical field interview clients and provide guidance in adopting healthy eating habits related to their health conditions. The goal is to help clients reduce dependency on medication and prevent the onset of further health problems.

“Each month when clients come in we’ll do a follow-up,” says Laurie Hamrick, case manager. “Did they reduce their weight? Go off their meds? Is their blood pressure or cholesterol lower?”

Future plans include nutrition classes and cooking demonstrations using ingredients from Catholic Charities’ H.O.P.E. Food Pantry. Hamrick anticipates the program could serve up to 500 people by the end of the year.

Catholic Charities would like to thank the generous donors in the Mansfield area who helped fund the Wellness Works Project. Special thanks goes to Earl Hawkins, who along with his wife Betty, co-founded Hawkins Markets.

Catholic Charities is also promoting wellness by asking people to donate food to the H.O.P.E. Pantry based on nutritional value. For a list of current needs at the pantry, please call 419-524-0733 or visit

Helping others is one of the most important lessons taught at the Foundation Academy in Mansfield. Which is why the students there conduct a food drive each year.

The theme of this year’s effort is ‘Feeding Others Feeds Us.’ Students throughout the K through 9 charter school are encouraged to bring in non-perishable items – peanut butter, soups, canned meats, paper goods, etc. – which this year were donated to Catholic Charities’ H.O.P.E. Pantry in Mansfield.

An entire SUV filled with good things

The amount of food collected was impressive, filling the entire rear compartment of a Suburban SUV.

Krista Wade, a school mother who helped to organize the effort, said that in the past her family has been helped by the H.O.P.E. Pantry.

“My husband was a contractor, and there were times food was scarce. It helped knowing we could get help when we needed it,” she said.

Individuals in need benefit from the H.O.P.E. Pantry donations.

“We depend on the generosity of individuals and organizations like the Foundation Academy,” said Patrice Scott, Community Outreach Coordinator for Catholic Charities in Mansfield. “We’re grateful to those kids and their parents. Without people like them, we couldn’t be doing what we do.”

Our Mission

Catholic Charities makes real the love God has for each individual regardless of faith or background, by serving the poor, speaking for and assisting the neglected and forgotten, respecting and promoting life from beginning to end, and nurturing and supporting individuals and families.

Catholic Charities Northwest Ohio