Thirty-five Montgomery area residents received “WeTHRIVE! Food Bundles” from Operation Give Back (OGB) in August and October. The bundles included fresh produce, healthy snacks, and healthy recipes.
“We wanted to do something for seniors, for those with chronic diseases, and for those who are food insecure,” said Elaine Hipps (pictured above, left), executive director of OGB. The August bundle also included a pedometer and information about walking in Montgomery’s parks. Participants will receive one more WeTHRIVE! Food Bundle in December.
The WeTHRIVE! Food Bundle project was funded by Montgomery’s Service to Community Grant. This year, grant criteria was revised to encourage projects related to the city’s WeTHRIVE! efforts, specifically those that include community wellness. “The goal was to encourage grant applicants to consider serving the community in more than task related services such as home maintenance and yard clean up,” said Connie Gaylor, administrative coordinator/clerk of council and WeTHRIVE! team member. “We are concerned with the health and wellbeing of our residents as well.”
OGB’s food pantry serves communities within five miles of its Millington Court location, including Montgomery, Blue Ash, Symmes Township, Loveland, and Sharonville. Elaine says people are surprised to learn that there is a food pantry — and a need for one — in these suburban areas. “There is hidden poverty,” she said. “No matter the zip code, there are people who need help. Most people are one paycheck or one illness or one accident away from needing to use the food pantry.”
Elaine’s own health journey motivated her to create the WeTHRIVE! Food Bundle project. Diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago, she didn’t take it seriously until she saw people in her life die because of uncontrolled diabetes. “Now I understand the connection between food, health and quality of life,” she said. “I want to live a long life and be healthy. I want people around me to live a long life and be healthy.”
In addition to the WeTHRIVE! bundles, OGB’s food pantry stocks fresh produce from the Freestore, La Soupe, and Pipkin’s. Clare Salter (pictured above, right), pantry coordinator, says clients appreciate the chance to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes they are wary of taking an unfamiliar food, like eggplant, but volunteers provide tips on how to use it. Clare says people come back and report how they liked it, and often take more the next time.
The food pantry is just one part of OGB’s mission (see below). While the non-profit serves areas beyond Montgomery, the organization has strong ties to the city. Many of its volunteers are Montgomery residents.
“We couldn’t do the work that we do without the support of the Montgomery community,” Elaine said. “Operation Give Back has support from the city, the chamber of commerce, the businesses, the schools, and the churches. People in Montgomery are very generous and want to help those in need. Eighty-five percent of our pantry items are donated by community members.”
The feeling is mutual, as it’s clear that the Montgomery community appreciates OGB’s work. “Elaine Hipps and her team of volunteers are truly called to this mission of helping their communities through their outreach efforts and we are thrilled to have awarded a small grant to them,” Connie said. And OGB was recently named Small Business of the Year by the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce.
More About Operation Give Back:
- OGB’s mission is to engage, equip, and empower at-risk and underserved students and their families with the skills needed to learn and grow, while inspiring them to realize their full potential and give back positively to our society.
- OGB’s signature program is its afterschool tutoring and mentoring program for children in the Sycamore school district. During the school year, 35 students in grades 2-8 come to OGB after school three days per week for tutoring, homework help, and a healthy snack.
- OGB holds an annual Back to School event, Holiday Store, and many other programs.
- Learn more at Ogiveback.com and OGB’s Facebook page.