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Expanded pantry hours, new ways to give



FISH
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Oxford-Orion FISH Pantry Coordinator Sandy Klersy is ready for another year of feeding those in need. Photo by CJC. (click for larger version)
January 12, 2011 - Oxford-Orion FISH is kicking off the new year with new ways to combat privation at the local level.

The local charity group has expanded its pantry hours and made them more convenient to help feed needy folks who live in Oxford, Orion and Addison townships.

"We were turning away too many clients with the few hours that we had," said Pantry Coordinator Sandy Klersy.

Located at 487 First Street in Oxford Township, the pantry is now open from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; from 5-7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month; and from 9:45 to 11:45 a.m. every third Thursday.

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"The old hours weren't very consistent," Klersy said. "It was hard for our (North Oakland Transportation Authority) riders to know when we were and when we weren't open."

Unfortunately, the number of folks who require free groceries, household items and hygiene products because they're unemployed, living on a fixed income or just trying to make end's meet continues to increase.

"The demand definitely is there," Klersy said. "I'm still (registering) anywhere between 15 and 30 new clients a month. We're not shrinking at all; we're just growing."

Last year, FISH provided 167,260 pounds of food to 1,951 households and 5,113 individuals. Based on 2009 figures, the number of households increased by 40, while the amount of distributed food increased by 1,455 pounds.

The good news is FISH is coming up with more ways to increase contributions in terms of both cash and goods.

On the financial side, donations to FISH are now considered deductible on Michigan's state income tax.

The Michigan Department of Treasury determined that contributions to FISH qualify for the Michigan Homeless Shelter/Food Bank nonrefundable tax credit.

"We were tax deductible on your federal (income tax), but Michigan was different and we just got approved for that in the middle of November," Klersy said.

FISH is also enlisting the help of local businesses to keep its pantry stocked through its new adopt-a-shelf program.

The way it works is simple.

A local business agrees to keep a shelf (or shelves) stocked with certain items by either providing the goods or giving FISH the money to shop for them.

Examples include a pizzeria providing tomato sauce and flour; a dental office keeping the toothpaste/toothbrush section stocked; a restaurant donating condiments such as ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise; a beauty salon contributing shampoo and conditioner; or an OB/GYN keeping feminine products on the shelves.

In return for their generosity, FISH will decorate the shelf with a plaque bearing the company's name/logo, information about the business, even coupons.

"It's a win-win for both of us," Klersy said. "They get to tell the community who they are and we don't have to spend money (from the FISH budget) on certain items if they adopt that shelf."

Klersy, who took over as pantry coordinator in May 2010, is working hard to get the word out about FISH and all the different services the charity offers.

"It blows me away how many people don't know who we are and what we do," she said. "We're not just food. We're more than just canned goods, which is what most people think of."

In addition to groceries, FISH also provides household items and personal hygiene products; gives out Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter baskets; provides Christmas gifts through its AngelFISH program; provides financial assistance for utility bills, rents and mortgages; and provides backpacks and school supplies to needy children.

For more information about Oxford-Orion FISH, please call (248) 628-3933 or visit www.oxfordorionfish.org.

Examples include a pizzeria providing tomato and flour; a dental office keeping the toothpaste/toothbrush section stocked; a restaurant donating condiments such as ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise; a beauty salon contributing shampoo and conditioner; or an OB/GYN keeping feminine products on the shelves.

In return for their generosity, FISH will decorate the shelf with a plaque containing the company's name/logo, information about the business, even coupons.

"It's a win-win for both of us," Klersy said. "They get to tell the community who they are and we don't have to spend money (from the FISH budget) on certain items if they adopt that shelf."

Klersy, who took over as pantry coordinator in May 2010, is working hard to get the word out about FISH and all the different services the charity offers.

"It blows me away how many people don't know who we are and what we do," she said. "We're not just food. We're more than just canned goods, which is what most people think of."

In addition to groceries, FISH also provides household items and personal hygiene products; gives out Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter baskets; provides Christmas gifts through its AngelFISH program; provides financial assistance for utility bills, rents and mortgages; and provides backpacks and school supplies to needy children.

For more information about Oxford-Orion FISH, please call (248) 628-3933 or visit www.oxfordorionfish.org.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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