In the aftermath of an opioid epidemic and ongoing food shortage in Ross County, a church in Bainbridge transformed a local storage building into a food pantry that makes home deliveries.
J216 Ministry, a nonprofit organization, began several years ago through the efforts of Pastor Chas Cottrill of Bainbridge Church of Christ in Christian Union (CCCU) and a friend, who purchased groceries and delivered them to about 50 people in Ross County the first month.
“It actually took several years of praying to figure out what to do to help the community, and what we felt led to do was to start with helping children and elderly that have a problem with getting food,” Cottrill says.
Now, with the help of about 70 volunteers, J216 proudly serves over 6,000 people monthly throughout Southeast Ohio.
Some volunteers work on Wednesdays and Fridays, driving to Grove City to pick up loads of food then properly store the groceries in the 3600 square-foot warehouse in Bainbridge, located on U.S. 50. Others arrive at the warehouse at 5 a.m. on Saturdays to load up trucks with boxes of nonperishable food and hygiene products to be hand-distributed to families in 13 counties. The volunteers work tirelessly until 2 p.m. to effect a change in the community.
“It’s all volunteer,” Cottrill says. “That’s the beautiful thing. We’re completely a volunteer organization even though I do have people who are putting in 50-60 hours a week sometimes.”
J216’s mission is “see the need, meet the need.” The ministry, which is named after the Bible verse James 2:16 in the Bible, encourages residents to act on their calling to aid those with physical needs, Cottrill says.
Each week, J216 delivers about 70 pounds of food per family. Boxes include a variety of groceries such as meat (pork, chicken, turkey, beef, fish, or seafood), produce (apples, pineapples, grapes, or oranges), milk, eggs, bread, boxed cereals and side dishes. In addition, J216 goes through 6,000 to 8,000 pounds of potatoes weekly.
“Financially, we’re run on strictly donations,” Cottrill says. “We have individuals that donate, we have a few businesses in Ross County that send monthly checks to help support it and there are a few churches as well.”
J216 is also a partnered agency of Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Of the hundreds of agencies throughout the state, J216 is No. 4 for the most donations, Cottrill says.
The ministry regularly makes contributions to “blessing boxes,” which are public food pantries throughout Ross County. The boxes are part of a grassroots movement to combat food insecurity and are located near schools, parks and churches. J216 usually donates Nutrisystem products because they have a longer shelf life and are nutrient-rich foods.
Due to the regional food shortage, J216 also works with elementary and high schools to fill their pantries, including Paint Valley local schools and Pickaway-Ross Career & Technology Center.
Although the work of the ministry is rewarding, Cottrill admits it is challenging to balance J216, the church, his family and work. Devoted volunteers help him manage the loaded schedule.
“I have some absolutely wonderful people from my church,” Cottrill says. “The majority of my church is involved in it … It’s all about having the right people, to be honest.”
Anyone in need of assistance can sign up for deliveries on the J216 website, call Cottrill at (740) 649-3403, visit the Bainbridge CCCU Facebook page or stop by the church at 220 S. Quarry St. in Bainbridge.