Clark County groups work to help as need for food aid increases

Clark State criminal justice club, Springfield police donate Thanksgiving meals to families.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Thousands of meals are being distributed to Clark County families this holiday season, reflecting a need that grew during the pandemic and increased this year with inflation.

On Tuesday, the Clark State College Criminal Justice Club partnered with the Springfield Police Division and Meijer to give Thanksgiving meals to families in need. The Operation Thanksgiving program donated meals and supplements on Tuesday to 10 families identified by Springfield police.

Sgt. Thomas Potter said it’s nice to be able to help members of the community.

“Every year it’s a big need, and with the economy, with inflation, this is just a way that the police department can give back to the families and help them out,” he said. “This is a different side of law enforcement people don’t see on a regular basis, but this is one way we can impact the community in a positive light.”

Potter said the families chosen are referred to them by schools or by officers working the streets who are in homes on a day-to-day basis.

“With Thanksgiving, the families, especially parents, are really grateful and happy to see us and that we’re able to help out and give back to the community in this way... This is about helping out those parents that whatever they’re going through, we just make it a little bit easier this holiday season,” he said.

Karen Benton, associate professor and criminal justice program coordinator, said service to others is a fundamental part of criminal justice.

“Criminal justice students at Clark State are provided opportunities to learn our community resources and also understand limitations that impact citizens’ quality of life. This activity provides our students with the opportunity to see how community organizations and members can come together to support those in need,” she said.

The criminal justice club and police academy students collected nonperishable food items throughout the fall semester for the program, and bought additional food items from Meijer on Tuesday morning through monetary donations made to the police division.

Hayley Boling, Clark State criminal justice major, said it’s important for the students to go out and help the people that need help.

“It’s just an effort for us to better work with the police department and help the community that we go to school in. Clark State isn’t only a community at Clark State, but we’re a part of the greater Springfield community as well,” she said.

“This is just a better effort to get us out in the community to help those in need,” Boling said, “and that’s a big part of being a cop is we’re servant leaders. We’re here for the community, and that’s something that people really need to see is we’re the future of police.”

The Box 21 truck delivered the dinners and supplemental food items to the families Tuesday. The items were sorted and boxed by volunteers from the college and the Springfield Police Division’s Alumni Association for the chosen families.

Operation Thanksgiving has served families in the community for 30 years, and this is the fifth year the Clark State Criminal Justice Club has participated in the program.

“The empathy these students have for families in our community that are in need has been evidenced each year,” Benton said. “Our partnership with the Springfield Police Division is one way our students demonstrate the classroom knowledge they have gained and their commitment to the citizens of our community.”

One of the largest area food relief efforts comes from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign & Logan Counties. The food bank helped with the holiday food challenges by distributing around 4,000 holiday boxes to families in need. The boxes included items to make a Thanksgiving meal, as well as items to prepare other meals throughout the month.

Although the food bank continues to provide the community with food assistance, it is always in need of donations to help more people.

Tyra Jackson, executive director of Second Harvest, said donations are needed more than ever. She said they have seen more people seeking assistance such as families, seniors, seniors taking care of grandchildren, larger families, and people who didn’t need help before. Some people are even using Second Harvest as their only resource for food.

The food bank serves around 50,000 people a year, and between 8-12,000 people a month.


Donate to the Second Harvest Food Bank through the Springfield News-Sun’s annual Community Food Relief effort:

Go to to give online

Send a check to Community Food Relief, 20 N. Murray St., Springfield, Ohio 45503

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