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Volunteers step in to run Marietta food pantry

Photo by Michael Kelly Gospel Mission Food Pantry volunteer Gary Sampson, right, helps Harmar Hill residents Darlene and Jacob Murphy pick out food. The food pantry has kept up with demand through the help of volunteers while its founder, Candy Waite, recovers from an auto crash that occurred in May.

MARIETTA — The Gospel Mission Food Pantry was busy Wednesday morning, with volunteers helping dozens of people seeking assistance with food and other necessities.

The pantry, a warehouse-sized facility with a garage door that opens onto Lancaster Street, was dealt a blow in late May when its founder, Candy Waite, was severely injured in a crash on Ohio 550. Waite, who has been hands-on manager of the food pantry since she started it several years ago, now is part-way through a long convalescence at her Marietta home.

“How’s she doing?” a man carrying a bag of groceries asked a volunteer as he was leaving the mission. No one needed to ask who he meant by “she.”

“Almost every person who comes in here asks us about Candy,” said volunteer Judy Hupp.

Candy Waite’s husband, Jeff Waite, was a passenger in the car when the crash occurred May 21, although his injuries were minor compared to hers. She suffered broken vertebrae in her neck and back and broken ribs.

“We went to Columbus Monday to have the halo taken off, and that was very painful for her,” Jeff Waite said Wednesday morning.

A halo brace is a cage-like apparatus that includes a circular band bolted directly into the skull and connected with struts to the shoulder. They are often used on patients with broken neck bones to prevent movement while the bones knit back together.

Jeff Waite said she is now wearing a hard collar brace.

“That helped a lot. The halo was heavy and it hurt all the time, and it was a good thing to get it off,” he said.

She’s scheduled for X-rays in a month to determine whether surgery will be necessary, he said.

“She’s coming along good, it’s just slow progress,” he said. “Just ask people to continue to pray, we’re so thankful for their support. The volunteers at the food pantry have really stepped up and they’re doing a great job. We’re proud of all of them.”

Their Yorkshire terrier dog, Miss Joy, has not left Candy’s side since she came home after the crash, he said.

The pantry is managing with more than a dozen volunteers who take turns in administrative roles while pitching in at sorting donations and helping their clients. Hupp said they are in daily contact with Candy Waite, providing her with numbers and getting advice.

“We give her the numbers every Wednesday at 3 p.m., there’s paperwork that needs to be filled out,” she said. “Candy’s still sort of running things.”

Hupp, who said she has been a volunteer for about four years, said the pantry is seeing between 350 and 400 people a week in need of help.

“The demand seems to be up this summer, so many hungry people,” she said. “Some of them walk here because they don’t have transportation. Last week a lady, who I know is over 65, walked here from Wayne Street, in all that heat. I could cry sometimes, but I try not to.”

Darlene and Jason Murphy, who live in the Harmar Hill area, came in Wednesday.

“We just need something to get us through to the end of the month,” Darlene said.

Volunteer Gary Sampson plucked packages and cans off the shelf for them.

“We love everyone here, they’re so helpful,” Darlene said.

“It’s a wonderful asset to the community,” Jason said.

The crash that injured Candy Waite happened when an oncoming car crossed the center line and hit the Waite’s SUV head-on, according to Jeff Waite and preliminary reports from the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Sgt. Eric Knowlton said Wednesday the file on the crash had been sent to the county prosecutor for determination of charges. The other driver in the crash was Allie Biehl, 20, of Marietta.

Jim Schneider at the prosecutor’s office said Wednesday his office had been communicating with the patrol and received part of the file but requested further information and is awaiting that.

“There are no charges pending at this time, it’s still under investigation,” he said.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@newsandsentinel.com

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