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Open Door Mission tackles food insecurity during pandemic

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OWEGO (WBNG) -- The Open Door Mission in Owego is going above and beyond to make sure everyone has a healthy meal on their table during the coronavirus crisis.

The mission operates food pantries in Owego, Waverly and Lounsberry as well as sober living residents for men who are in recovery.

"During a pandemic or not there's still families that need food, people who need services, just because there's something like that going on we can't shut down," says Dustin Root who works at the mission.

Executive Director Mary Sobol says this is nothing new.

"We've been here for over fifty years. We have four sober living residences for men, and we have three food pantries," she says.

From Owego to Waverly, Patti Sheldon is in charge of making sure that food gets to those who need it.

"Everything here should be healthy for them, and that's what we try to do, give them the option of a healthy diet when their income doesn't allow it," she says.

She says part of that strategy is letting families and individuals gather food from the pantry for themselves once a month, rather than just handing out food.

"We thought that would help them prepare better meals," she says. "They would eat and use more of the food that they provided and their families would be happier eating meals that they themselves choose to eat."

Sobol says while some of the food is donated, much of it is purchased from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, so the center relies on sales and donations from their thrift stores to keep providing those meals.

"People donate items to us and then we sell them at our store locations, that money goes to support our sober living houses and our food pantries," she says.

Like most shops, the thrift stores had to shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and the center relied on money from The Tioga County Foundations Coalition Emergency Fund. Now that the stores are back open, they say if you're looking to clean out your closet or just to do some thrifting, you'll be helping out those in need.

"You can support any of our causes and we understand during this time it's tough to ask for money-- but it would be a great help," Root said.

If you'd like to help out the mission with anything from food to infrastructure projects to keep the center running, you can do so by clicking here.

Jack Arpey

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