Thanksgiving profile: Roland Lufkin embraces mission of Bainbridge food pantry

Roland “Rolly” Lufkin, center, started as a volunteer at the Bainbridge Area Food for Friends and now is director.  He said he gets great satisfaction from working at the food pantry.

Dedication and service are foremost for Roland “Rolly” Lufkin, who started volunteering at the Bainbridge Area Food for Friends pantry six years ago and is now director. The food pantry in the lower level of the Bainbridge Town Hall is open 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

He was previously in business in Solon with David Scott. The company FM Turner Co. sold paper, foil, foam and plastic ware to distributers in the Ohio area, in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana and Michigan.

After retiring, he said, “I figured I had to give back.” Before retiring, he noted, he met the late Frank Schnabel who led the food bank. “Everyone knew Frank,” Mr. Lufkin said. “He was here since 1990. All the organizations knew Frank.” Don Lewis of Bainbridge also volunteered at that time in the pantry.

“I asked Frank if the pantry needed turkeys, and he said sure. And that’s how I got hooked in,” Mr. Lufkin said. After retiring, he began volunteering five days a week at the pantry. “I couldn’t sit around at home,” he said. “I figured I had to give back.” There is satisfaction in giving, said Mr. Lufkin, who is originally from Massachusetts. He and his wife Elaine live in Auburn.

Among the volunteers at the pantry are members of Kenston boys and girls soccer teams and the fourth-graders from Chagrin Falls. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops help with food drives. Volunteers at the pantry include Kathy Starling, Debbie Kay and Beth Armstrong.

If someone needs food, they can fill out a form, listing ages of any children in the family, and make an appointment, Mr. Lufkin said. Food is given out Tuesday through Friday. Last year, they helped 251 families, including 515 adults and 349 children.

The number of people receiving food has grown substantially, he noted. In the summer time, the donations include produce, and local farmers donate eggs, tomatoes and squash, he said.

He noted examples of Howard’s Apples giving eggs and cider and Auburn farmers Jake and Dawn Tretheway at Maplecrest Farm donating tomatoes and potatoes.

“People love apples, tomatoes and anything fresh,” Mr. Lufkin said. “And when people go shopping, if there are sales, they buy the items and bring them in to the pantry to donate.”

Lowe’s Greenhouse in Bainbridge takes in donations of canned foods and cash for the food pantry and gives a discount on the Christmas trees and free deliveries for those who donate. Breezewood Gardens also does a food drive and takes in cash donations for the holidays to give to the pantry, Mr. Lufkin said.

Mr. Lufkin keeps the shelves of food organized. The first Wednesday of the month he goes to Drug Mart to get 10 percent off, and no tax, on purchases for the charity.

He always checks for expired dates on foods. “We ask people to watch for dates on the items they donate,” he said, because donations with expired dates cannot be accepted.

Some of the foods are taken to Downtown Cleveland to help the homeless living under the bridges, he said.

The pantry is organized with a miscellaneous section, a gluten free area and a vegetarian area. They sometimes get dog and cat food in, according to Mr. Lufkin. “And everyone loves peanut butter and cereals.”

They take in pasta, napkins, shampoo, detergents, deodorants, Kleenex, toiletries and they have started taking in baby foods and treats.

The pantry gives out supplies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Christmas distribution is Dec. 20 and Dec. 21. Although the pantry gives out meats year-round, Mazzulo’s Market donates turkeys at Thanksgiving and hams at Christmas. “They are so generous,” Mr. Lufkin said. “They have been doing it for years and years. Farmers and the public as well,” he said.

The pantry is now offering hats, mittens and gloves, he added.

“We’re here to help area communities, including Bainbridge, Auburn, South Russell, Russell, Newbury, Troy, Aurora and Chagrin Falls,” Mr. Lufkin said.

There is satisfaction in volunteering at the pantry, he added. “I enjoy helping people who come in who don’t have anything or just lost a job.” During the recent government shut down, they helped many more people, he said.

“It gets a little sad sometimes, but we are here to help them. We help people who have lost a job and need help and then they help us when they get a job again,” Mr. Lufkin said. “I’ve always been in business and this is giving back.”

For more information, call the pantry at 440-708-9829.

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