On Wednesday, United Way of Lake County distributed 543 turkeys to 52 food pantries and residential facilities across the county as part of its 2012 Feed Lake County Campaign.
Ten of the pantries to receive turkeys are headquartered in Mentor.
Giant Eagle delivered the 12- to 14-pound turkeys Wednesday morning and volunteers from Lake House Men’s Residential distributed the birds to the food pantries as they came to pick them up.
"Over the course of the last few months, we’ve seen an increase of people using our food pantry. The need definitely has gone up," said Marty Crews, primary coordinator of the St. Bede Food Pantry in Mentor.
"The support from the community and United Way has been unbelievable. This is what we depend on, especially during the holidays. If we didn’t have United Way to get these turkeys, we wouldn’t be able to provide turkeys for our clients. The generosity of United Way and the community has been fantastic."
Overall, the 2012 Feed Lake County Campaign raised about 45,188 pounds of food and $62,000 in cash. Cash donations to Feed Lake County are used throughout the year to make purchases for the food pantries.
The majority of the food donations were distributed to food pantries in April however there will be another purchase and distribution before Christmas.
The food pantries continue to see an increase in demand. Last year, more than 6,000 people used the food pantry system and between 700 and 1,100 residents needed help on a weekly basis.
These food pantries report they are seeing 10 to 20 new visitors each week. Many first time social service clients are 40 to 50 years old, have lost their jobs, exhausted their benefits and are looking desperately for somewhere to turn.
United Way of Lake County always accepts food or cash donations, which can be sent to 9285 Progress Parkway, Mentor, OH 44060. Those in need of food can call 2-1-1 to be referred to a local food pantry.