By Andrea McCann Times Sentinel Managing Editor
Zionsville Times Sentinel
---- — Running Zionsville Food Pantry (ZFP) is no easy feat, and Director Nancy Thompson credits its many partners and volunteers with enabling the pantry, a ministry of Zionsville Presbyterian Church (ZPC), to serve approximately 95 Boone County families per week. In a recent food drive for the pantry, partner Ascension Health collected 14,122 items. It took two cargo vans, three pickup trucks and much manpower from Ascension, ZFP and local high school students to haul the thousands of pounds of donated food to the pantry Friday, Aug. 30, and put it away. "It was an incredible amount of food," Thompson said. "It was back-breaking work." Ascension Health is the third largest healthcare company in the country, according to Charlie Bell, client relationship manager. The nonprofit, affiliated with the Catholic Church, has 30 hospitals and 160,000 employees nationwide, he said, and their mission is to serve the poor. In 2011, when Ascension located just off Michigan Road, between 86th and 96th streets, Mission Director Glenn McDonald, formerly pastor at ZPC for 28 years, suggested the food pantry as one of the nonprofit's missions. Bell said the food drive was made into an annual competition, and Ascension employees look forward to it. He said teams are formed in each department; they collect food items and decide on a theme for a "sculpture" they'll build with their collection at the the end of the food drive. Judges then select a winning sculpture, and employees can walk around and view them before food pantry volunteers arrive to pick up the donations. "We have a lot of fun with it," Bell said, adding there's a little rivalry, and maybe a little smack-talking, involved. "It's an opportunity for coworkers to get together and have fun." Thompson said the themes are always creative. "There's no more fun way to do a service project than with your friends," she declared. And Thompson ought to know: She's been involved with the food pantry for many years, she said, and enjoys working with the other volunteers to provide food, cleaning supplies and toiletries to those in need. ZFP has about 75 volunteers weekly, according to Leadership Coordinator Angie Campbell. She said many people work behind the scenes to take care of chores such as picking up bread donations, putting food items out on tables in preparation for clients, or bringing in fresh produce donations. In addition, there are many local organizations and businesses that partner with the food pantry to do food drives. See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.