“For I was hungry, and you gave Me food…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me.”
– MATTHEW 25:35,40
I am extremely proud to be a part of this wonderful foundation. I have called Licking County my home for the majority of my life. I was introduced to The Byron Saunders Foundation by my mother a couple of years ago. I assisted her in a food drive and fell in love with the idea of providing Thanksgiving meals to families in need. In 2020 I became even more involved and I held an event that raised $743 for Licking County families. I want to continue to grow and improve as a part of The Licking County Chapter. Improving the lives of others strongly improves our own lives. It builds character, compassion, and a higher sense of self. I have had my own struggles in life and there is nothing better than helping those who are struggling or just need a smile. My goal is to create many smiles and full bellies in the years to come.
In the past year, I have moved to and taken a position in Licking County. I am excited to be a part of this wonderful organization and to help others, especially during these difficult times. I have worked with the Byron Saunders foundation in the past through food drives and I looked forward to working toward the goal of giving back to local families in need during the Thanksgiving holiday.
My wife, Lee, and I have been residents of Licking County since 1976, so Licking County is our HOME. All three of our kids graduated from Newark High School and all three still live in Licking County. Our entire family has been, and is, involved with various organizations which give back to the community and help people. So when I learned that the Byron Saunders Foundation wanted to start a chapter in Licking County I quickly signed up. I have always enjoyed starting and growing groups, especially ones in the service arena.
Having helped organize and taken 13 trips down to the Gulf coast after Katrina to rehab houses damaged by that disaster, I learned first hand how important having a home where families could gather was. And since our family has always had family meals on holidays the philosophy of the Byron Saunders Foundation of serving meals to families to have in their homes just made sense.
Glad to be a part and come and volunteer.
My name is Christine Benintend and I have lived in Pataskala for the past 14 years. I grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania where I can remember, as a young girl, praying each night that everyone in the world would have enough food to eat. I don’t know why that particular issue was so important to me or what my understanding of world hunger and food shortages were at that age. I did know that my mom and grandmothers were amazing cooks and my family always had plenty to eat. That made me feel safe and cared for and I wanted that for all little kids.
As I got older, I found opportunities to volunteer to help people by joining the Columbus Jaycees where I met my husband, Larry, at my very first meeting. Larry had a passion to help others like I had never seen before, and soon he and I were volunteering at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank Warehouse together, repackaging bulk foods for distribution to families. It was one of our favorite things to do.
Larry became critically ill a few years after we got married. He had a rare blood disorder which caused numerous strokes and resulted in a number of brain surgeries. At one point, we were told he would never walk on his own or even be able to dress himself again. That person clearly did NOT know Larry. It took years of hard work and determination, some amazing doctors, and a ton of prayers, but he recovered to about 95%, experiencing only some vision loss.
Larry had retired during his illness and was looking for something to do during the day. We found a medical transportation company who had paired with the Mid-Ohio Food Bank and would transport clients there to volunteer. After Larry’s first shift in the Food Pantry he was giving the employees helpful suggestions for improvements that could be made to the layout of the Pantry. By the end of his second shift, he was everyone’s favorite “personal shopper” because he was so fun to talk to and helped everyone take their food items out to their cars. This amazing man who had been so critically ill, became the shift supervisor on Friday afternoons at the Food Bank Pantry. I could not have been more proud.
In May of 2017, Larry was tragically killed in a car accident returning from a dental cleaning. I have found that honoring him helps me with the grief so almost everything I do is done with him and his passions, in mind.
When Brian asked me to be a part of the Byron Saunders Foundation I felt like this was something I could do that would really honor Larry. It wasn’t until Brian and I met to discuss the Foundation and the Licking County Chapter that Brian relayed a story about Larry helping him with a food drive in the past. Larry and I knew Brian from Church but I had NO IDEA Larry had actually been a part of the Byron Saunders Foundation before he and I met…. what an honor it is to now be a part of it too!