Community support is in the bag, thanks to Oberlin IGA and its loyal customers

Nov 3, 2021

Those familiar with Oberlin, Ohio might know the name from its private liberal arts college and conservatory of music. Oberlin College has a student population around 2,800, and the city of Oberlin is small by comparison with 8,000 residents. But this small town has a huge heart, as evidenced by the strong turnout for Oberlin IGA and Oberlin Community Services' (OCS) annual food drive. 

Oberlin IGA provides OCS, a nonprofit that helps local residents meet their basic needs, with supplementary food items during the holidays, thanks in large part to the kindness of Oberlin IGA customers. In addition to pulling together classic holiday sides like stuffing and cranberry sauce, plus all the fixings for green bean casserole and pumpkin pie for OCS to use at their food pantry, last year Oberlin IGA sold $10 bags filled with baking ingredients that go to neighbors in need via OCS so they can bake holiday cookies. 

 

Oberlin IGA Owner Leo Braido, who previously served on the OCS board, provided financial assistance to cover the value of bag contents in excess of $10, so the reasonable price encouraged customers to support neighbors in need. For the duration of the program, Braido delivered the purchased bags across town to OCS once a day where the organization manages distribution of holiday meal donations through signups from families located throughout southern Lorain County. 

Overwhelmingly positive customer feedback and generosity from loyal patrons has kept the IGA food drive going and growing for the past five Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. “So many of our customers wanted to do a food drive for Christmas and wanted to help. The advent of COVID really created interest in neighbors helping out the community in need,” Braido says. He credits OCS Food Coordinator Liv Hansen with the idea of making cookie kits as supplemental dessert donation bags for Oberlin IGA to sell this past December. The $10 cookie bags were filled with flour, sugar, vegetable oil, and chocolate chips, but they sold like hotcakes.

According to Braido, OCS was pleasantly surprised by the 2020 results. “They were shocked by the hundreds of bags that were delivered. We would take over 100 bags in a single day." Braido says they sold over 800 bags for the Christmas food drive, with 20 bags bought and donated by a single resident on the first day they were made available. Another shopper committed to buying a bag during every trip to the store.

The holiday food drives are important to Braido, who recalls a childhood living with less and in turn is eager to give back whenever possible. "When I was a child growing up, I lost my father at a young age and we were very poor," Braido tells local newspaper The Chronicle. "So I've been there, I've had the needs that Oberlin Community Services clients have had. As long as I'm on this Earth, I'm going to do everything I can to help people as much as I can."

Thanks to Braido and Oberlin IGA's shoppers, the power of giving in a small community where neighbors support neighbors allows the town to transcend the size of its population. Braido adds, “Thankfully, we have lots of regular customers.”

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