BWFWS enjoys 21-year history of sharing


FLASHBACK

By Lenny C. Lepola - newsguy@ee.net



Big Walnut Friends Who Share founder Barb Jeffers, second from left, in a June 2013 photo taken during a visit to the Friends Who Share store at 216 High Street in Sunbury. From left are store manager Gene Wampler, Jeffers, Friends Who Share Historian Pat Monroe and BWFWS President Larry Tornes.


Today when you say the words Big Walnut Friends Who Share most residents of Eastern Delaware County think of a local institution that’s been around almost forever. But BWFWS started as a community-based all-volunteer family assistance organization only 21 years ago.

Barb Jeffers, who was cleaning her son’s room and ended up with a load of clothing that was too new to discard, started Friends Who Share. Jeffers could not find a place to donate the clothing where it would be distributed to local people in need.

The usual outlets, like Salvation Army and Goodwill, send donated items to Columbus, and then sell the items in their stores; but Jeffers wanted the clothing to go Big Walnut people in need and be distributed free of charge. She looked at models like Westerville Caring and Sharing, and Delaware’s People In Need; her neighbor Sue Godshall helped get Friends Who Share together in Jeffers’ garage; then Betty Blanton came on board.

When Friends Who Share outgrew Jeffers’ garage they used the old IGA building on Harrison Street; then Dr. Michael Anthony’s basement on Vernon Street was home base. Big Walnut Friends Who Share now operates out of a 40 by 60 foot block building at 216 High Street near the intersection with Hartford Road.

Jeffers, who now serves as a Friends Who Share’s volunteer, stopped at the store recently for a brief interview. Also present were Friends Who Share President Larry Tornes, Center Director Gene Wampler and FWS historian Pat Monroe.

“I had clothes I could take to donation points in other communities, or fill a void here at home,” Jeffers said when asked how Big Walnut Friends Who Share began. “Marge Day was running Westerville Sharing and Caring and she had me go to one of their meetings to see how they did things. I came up with our name and started in my garage on Centerburg Road with one or two clients. We were there for one summer and then moved to the old IGA building for a year where we had no heat so we had to wear gloves and hats.”

The move to the Vernon Street basement space wasn’t a whole lot better, Jeffers said. The basement was damp; there were floods and snakes.

“We were on Vernon Street for two years and then we found our High Street building,” Jeffers said. “We didn’t have a board until we moved here, and in 1995 we got our tax ID and became a 501(3)(c) non-profit organization.”

Jeffers had a stroke in 1999 and local churches got involved. That involvement grew into today’s model with Friends Who Share getting assistance from local businesses, Big Walnut students, youth organizations, and fraternal and service organizations.

“Big Walnut Friends Who Share is going strong,” Jeffers said. “We started with one or two clients. Today we have 352 clients and that number is growing.”

Jeffers said Friends Who Share will help anybody needing assistance who can get to the High Street center — on a first visit. During a first visit potential clients are told where they can get access to other services and additional assistance like food stamps, welfare, Medicare and unemployment benefits.

There is an application process for receiving further Friends Who Share assistance, and there are limits to food items a client can receive per weekly visit. Clients can take 14 food items, but there are 11 items that two or more count as one. For example, 10 jars of baby food count as one food item; three packages of Ramen noodles count as one item.

“Food stamps doesn’t buy taxable items like disposable diapers, toilet paper, bath soaps, dish soaps and laundry detergent, and we do supply those necessary items,” Jeffers said. “We also supply some furniture and appliances to anybody who lives within the Big Walnut school district.”

Larry Tornes said the best thing about Friends Who Share is that after more than 20 years and serving a growing client list the organization is still run on a volunteer basis.

“We have accepted some assistance from the FEMA Emergency Food & Shelter Program, but we’re still 100 percent volunteer,” Tornes said. “In fact, we’re in better shape on volunteers than we have ever been, with help from churches and the community. We have 65 volunteers, and we even have one volunteer, one of our most active, who was once a client.”

Jeffers said the intrusiveness and documentation demands of government assistance are the reasons why Friends Who Share prefers to remain an all-volunteer organization servicing local needs.

“With most government assistance they want to know all about you, and there’s so much paperwork,” Jeffers said. “They went clients names, addresses, income — we couldn’t do that unless we started paying people.”

Asked exactly how much assistance the Friends Who Share Center provides each month, Gene Wampler said if it were not for food and household supply donations from the community they would have to spend between $4,000 and $5,000 each month servicing their clients.

“Last fall when donations were down we were spending $3,000 a month just keeping up with client’s needs,” Wampler said. “With kids home from school in the summertime food needs are even greater, and yet it’s a time when donations are down.”

What’s the greatest Friends Who Share Food Pantry need when donations are down? Wampler said items like breakfast cereal because it’s hard to find a box of cereal that costs less than $3. Also needed are non-perishable high protein items like canned tuna fish and jars of peanut butter.

Jeffers said Big Walnut Friends Who Share’s growth makes her very happy; they’ve grown from passing out a few clothing items in her garage more than 20 years ago, to today’s organization providing food, used clothing, toys, furniture, household items, back to school supplies, Christmas boxes and Easter gifts.

“After my stroke I couldn’t run it like it should be run, and it was awesome to see all of the community coming together to help out,” Jeffers said. “I’m proud of our community and what they’ve done with what we started so long ago.”

The Big Walnut Friends Who Share Store at 216 High Street, Sunbury, is open to those in need on Wednesday mornings from 9 until 11:30 a.m., and during the evening on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 6:30 until 8 p.m.

On the second Saturday of each month, senior citizens can visit the Friends Who Share Store from 10 a.m. until 12 noon. Volunteers help out at the center from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. every Monday morning. The store accepts donated items on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.

To volunteer, to donate needed items, or to make a financial contribution to Friends Who Share projects, call (740) 965-9596. Cash donations may be sent to Big Walnut Friends Who Share, P.O. Box 424, Sunbury 43074.

Big Walnut Friends Who Share can be found on the Internet at < bigwalnutfriendswhoshare.org >.

BWFWS Mission Statement

Big Walnut Friends Who Share (BWFWS) is an independent organization of friends sharing with friends in the Big Walnut community. We work to improve the living conditions of families and individuals in the Big Walnut School District by securing donated clothing, food, household furnishings, etc. or cash contributions. We distribute the items free of charge to area persons in need.

BWFWS operates under the leadership of a Board of Directors consisting of the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Center Director, Assistant Center Director, Food Coordinator, Church Liaison Coordinator and Community Liaison Coordinator. The Board of Directors hold monthly meetings with the Church and Community Liaisons to receive input from them.

The Church Liaisons keep the 13 participating churches informed of Big Walnut Friends Who Share activities, seek volunteers and coordinate the food, book bag and family Christmas box collections. The Community Liaisons inform the community about Big Walnut Friends Who Share activities, seek volunteers and assist with food drives, etc.

Proof of residency in the Big Walnut school district must be provided by prospective clients. Big Walnut Friends Who Share rents a storage facility for furniture and appliances.

Big Walnut Friends Who Share founder Barb Jeffers, second from left, in a June 2013 photo taken during a visit to the Friends Who Share store at 216 High Street in Sunbury. From left are store manager Gene Wampler, Jeffers, Friends Who Share Historian Pat Monroe and BWFWS President Larry Tornes.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2017/05/web1_BWFWS.05.a-1-.jpgBig Walnut Friends Who Share founder Barb Jeffers, second from left, in a June 2013 photo taken during a visit to the Friends Who Share store at 216 High Street in Sunbury. From left are store manager Gene Wampler, Jeffers, Friends Who Share Historian Pat Monroe and BWFWS President Larry Tornes.
FLASHBACK

By Lenny C. Lepola

newsguy@ee.net

Big Walnut Friends Who Share can be found on the Internet at < bigwalnutfriendswhoshare.org >.

Big Walnut Friends Who Share can be found on the Internet at < bigwalnutfriendswhoshare.org >.