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This sign thanking residents for their donations to the city food pantry sits in front of the Westlake Senior and Community Services Center on Center Ridge Road.

The Senior and Community Services Department is bringing back its Curbside Food Pickup program beginning Thursday and continuing on the last Thursday of every month at least through September.

The program might be extended beyond early fall if the need continues and donations allow.

The city last provided curbside pickup June 26 for those needing a little help with food supplies during the coronavirus pandemic but nervous about coming inside the food pantry, said Lydia Gadd, director of community services.

“It was quite popular, but it put a strain on supplies,” said Robert Rozboril, public relations assistant for the city.

The pantry continued to offer food baskets inside the physical pantry throughout the health crisis.

A few things have changed for this go around of curbside services. Pickup days have changed from each Friday, as they were in May and June, to the last Thursday of the month.

Any Westlake resident is eligible for help from the pantry. There are no income or age requirements. Gadd joked that someone else did the math, but she said requests for aid have risen 400% since the start of the pandemic.

Among the reasons for the dramatic increase is church food pantries being forced to close along with church buildings, Gadd said. Numerous other food sources also had to close as the pandemic progressed.

Gadd regularly checks food pantry offerings online to see which pantries are open. In May, the number of operating pantries began dropping precipitously, she said. That number has only recently begun returning to pre-coronavirus numbers.

Unlike many food banks or food pantries, the Westlake pantry does not obtain food from the Cleveland Food Bank. Instead the pantry depends entirely on donations from the Westlake community, Gadd said.

“The city has been incredibly generous,” she said. “We’re getting a very good number of donations.”

When pantry supplies began to run low, Gadd said she or Rozboril put out the word on the city website or via the Westlake Facebook page. Inevitably and quickly, new donations start flowing, she said.

“We get lots of responses,” Gadd said.

City of Westlake secretary Susan Laschinger acts as volunteer coordinator for the food pantry. At the height of the pandemic, many volunteers were sent home out of an abundance of caution, especially considering a large percentage are senior citizens. Some volunteers decided to stay home, Laschinger continued. The pantry just recently began welcoming back many of its regular volunteers. Only about a dozen are allowed in the pantry at one time to allow for social distancing. Masks and gloves are mandatory.

“It’s so nice to see them back in the building,” Laschinger said.

People must register for curbside pickup at www.cityofwestlake.org/activities. Residents can register up until 11 p.m. on the Tuesday before the pickup date. Three pickup times are available: 10, 10:30 and 11 a.m. Laschinger said the pantry can accommodate 12 people during each pickup time for a total of 36 slots.

“We can add more if the need is there,” she said.

The sign-up page includes a “Privacy Option” allowing people to sign up while revealing no personal information. If you use the privacy option, the city asks you to note the date and time for your pickup; no confirmation or reminder can be sent to you.

For those with no internet access, call 440-899-3544. You also may request non-curbside pickup of food items.

Items provided generally are nonperishable food. The amount of food given to each registrant depends on family size. In compliance with CDC recommendations and state guidelines, visitors must remain in their vehicles and wear masks. Visitors are asked to ensure before they arrive that their trunk has ample free space.

No more than two people are permitted in each car.

The pickup location is the Westlake Senior and Community Services Center, 29694 Center Ridge Road, at Crocker and Center Ridge roads.

Contact this reporter at tcorrigan@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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