Organizations partner to lend a helping hand for the holidays


By Amanda Ensinger

Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Amanda Ensinger
Sreedha Marre, 12, and Arjun Vattikuti, 7, load food into a police car to give to Westside residents in need. The food gift bags included notes of encouragement to those in need.

The Sahara-Columbus Club partnered with the Starfish Assignment and the Columbus Police to deliver food to those in need on the Westside.

The Sahara-Columbus Club handed out more than 150 bags of food to those in need to ensure they have a nice holiday meal. Among the items in the bag where canned ham, stuffing, pancake mix, gravy, soup, and other nonperishable items.

“We started creating these bags in March when kids started learning remotely,” said Teja Kancharlapalli who founded Sahara-Columbus. “We wanted to ensure that kids had proper meals when they were at home. After doing this, we decided we wanted to do more to help and partnered with the Starfish Assignment to see where we also could donate these bags.”

The items in the bag can be easily made; many can even be made in a microwave if someone does not have access to an oven or stove top. The group wanted to make it as easy as possible to prepare the meals for families in need.

The Starfish Assignment informed the group about the need for resources like this on the Westside, so the group decided to focus on this region when donating these holiday bags.

“There are so many people in need on the Westside,” said Columbus Deputy Chief of Police Timothy Becker. “People could use a little help, especially with the type of year we have had. Those in need that receive these bags are so grateful and appreciate the help.”

The items in the bag came from money raised by the club, as well as donations from the central Ohio community.

“Each of the bags also was decorated and had a message inside it,” Kancharlapalli said. “We wanted recipients of the bags to know we are thinking of them.”

The bags were delivered to a precinct on the Westside and officers personally delivered the bags to those in need. Becker said this is just one tactic the police ae doing to build relationships in the community.

“Usually when people see us, it’s the worst day of their life,” he said. “We want to see the residents we serve on good days too. By delivering these bags to those in need, we can strengthen those relationships and start a dialogue with them.”

The Westside of Columbus has continued to see increasing gun violence and overdoses. Becker hopes by engaging with the community, they can work with residents to prevent these issues. They also hope when something does happen, residents will remember these interactions and be more willing to talk to the police.

“People are getting away with murder because neighbors don’t want to talk to us,” Becker said. “People see things going on, but they don’t want to talk to the police. We need to build trust with this community, then when something happens, they are more willing to help us.”

The Sahara-Columbus Club plans to continue to find ways to help those in need during the pandemic and beyond.

“I wanted my kids to know that there is a big world out there and there are people in need,” Kancharlapalli said. “Everyone faces different challenges and don’t have the same opportunities. You can’t make a difference if you aren’t willing to help.”


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