Running Food Bank is Reminder 'Someone Always Has It Worse'
For Kelly Kling, helping out keeps your own worries in perspective
Guess how much Kelly Kling makes for running the Strongsville Emergency Food Bank.
It's a 40-hour-a-week job -- stocking the shelves, scheduling the 115 volunteers, handling paperwork, cleaning.
Her paycheck? A whopping nothing.
Kling just smiles and shrugs.
"I just wanted to help other people," she says. "There's always someone worse off than you."
A volunteer at the Food Bank for 10 years, Kling stepped into the leadership role nearly three years ago.
She has genuine compassion for the people she serves
"You can see the pain in their eyes," she says. "You can tell they want someone to talk to for a minute."
Each month, hundreds of Strongsville residents depend on the food bank to supply them with essentials -- cereal, canned vegetables, paper products, peanut butter.
Right now, 257 families are registered with the pantry, located in a small building at 13200 Pearl Rd., adjacent to Center Middle School.
"A lot of them have lost a spouse, or they're single moms trying to raise a family," Kling says. "And a lot of senior citizens. They break my heart -- they're living on those teeny Social Security checks."
Keeping the shelves stocked is a never-ending task for the volunteers who staff the food bank.
"We never turn anybody away," Kling says. "But we can only give them what we have."
Summer is the worst time of year for the food bank because so many of the local organizations that hold food drives schedule them for the winter holidays.
Still, if the Food Bank asks, people give.
"When we say we need food, the community always responds," Kling says.
Her assistants credit Kling for much of the success, saying she keeps the operation humming.
"This is the most organized food pantry," said volunteer Mike Nichols. "She pours herself into it."
Kling, 46, grew up in Strongsville and graduated from high school here. She and her husband have two kids -- Ryan, 20, and Kalie, 17.
Because both kids will be in college soon, Kling said she can only serve as coordinator of the Food Bank until next April, when she plans to get a full-time job. She's not sure what she'll do yet, but says she wants it to be something meaningful, where she can continue to help people.
This year, she has already cut back her hours to about 25 a week, with two other volunteers -- Julie Golonka and Lynley Wernke -- taking over some of her duties.
"I'm hoping someone in the community wants to dive in and take over next year," she says.
Until then, Kling, whose own family has dealt with its share of health issues, says she wants to put in as much time at the Food Bank as she can.
"If you give back, help out," she says, "it puts your own life in perspective."