By Linda Dillman
A desire to help the less fortunate continues to reap benefits for the Canal Winchester community more than a decade after a young boy eschewed a Halloween costume in exchange for collecting items for those in personal hardship.
“Because of the need from our community and my general lack of comfort in costumes, I decided that it would be a good idea to ask my neighbors for food and/or personal hygiene items,” said Josh Gilger, an Ohio State University senior who created Trick or Treat for Food 11 years ago. “The response the first year was wonderful. Over the years, the drive has only gotten better. Through expansion to more and more neighborhoods/subdivisions, better organization, help from family and friends, and, of course, the impressive charity from our neighbors, we have been able to significantly increase the size of our contribution.”
The yearly collection benefits the Canal Winchester Human Services Food Pantry.
Human Services Executive Director Aletha Mullins said, because of Gilger’s drive and other efforts in collecting food, the pantry is able to serve everyone who presents for food and never has to turn anyone away for food service/food insecurity.
“We have several drives that have sustained us for years,” said Mullins. “Trick or Treat for Food Drive has been ongoing for several years and helps us stay open to provide food for years to come. Because of Josh’s drive to help others we have built a wonderful partnership with him and his family. These actions go further than just feeding people, it’s the relationships built, continuing a project that is important to you, bringing others into the fold and your cause. Josh is very driven and has a wonderful heart for helping people.”
Gilger credits the support of his parents for helping to keep the drive going while he is away at college. He said his mother helps manage correspondence with homeowners’ associations, printing/creation of flyers and bags to get the word out and drives him around to collect donated items.
“My father is also a big help. He stays at our house to continue to give candy to our neighbors and their children. Then, after my mother and I collect, he assists us in organizing the items in whatever way the pantry requests,” said Josh. “Over the years we have also reached out the CWHS National Honor Society, Boy Scouts of America Troop 103, friends, and family to get extra hands in the drive to ensure it runs smoothly.”
Kendra Gilger said, as parents, the couple is humbled by their son’s drive, compassion and kind heart. She said Josh has always positioned himself to be an advocate and supporter for the growth of his community.
“Be it the Trick or Treat for Food drive, Scouting for Food, OSU’s Honor & Scholars events or participating in charity runs Josh has always ensured he engages in his community in an active and meaningful way,” said Kendra.
According to Kendra, as Josh prepares to graduate from OSU this May, he is taking steps to ensure the food drive continues by partnering with the Canal Winchester Lions Club. The Lions will assist this year, with the goal of taking over the drive next year.
“I think it is incredibly important that members of a community support each other,” said Josh. “There are times in everyone’s life where we may need a little support. One does not need to start a food drive, service project, or outreach program to be a productive member of a community, all that must be done is to carry oneself with kindness. Putting the needs of the community first and treating everyone within it is all one needs to do to be a great community member.”
For information about donating to Trick or Treat for Food, contact Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kendra at email@example.com.