By Carol McIntire
At age 80, Dean Rinehart is cutting back on volunteer work, but has no intention of calling it quits.
Rinehart, who has been helping feed area folks for 18 years, recently turned the keys over to two trucks he used to haul food from the Akron – Canton Food Bank to local agencies.
“It’s time to cut back,” said Rinehart. “My birthday was March 25. I was 80. Donna (his wife) and I want to do some traveling.”
Dean began volunteering at the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry shortly after he retired from PCC Airfoils in 2000.
“They announced in church that help was needed to unload the food truck from the Akron-Canton Food Bank once a month at Loaves and Fishes, which was on Park Ave., at that time. It just kind of grew from there.”
The opportunity arose for Loaves and Fishes to pick up fresh produce from the food bank dock.
“They hadn’t been able to get produce prior to that time so they jumped at the opportunity,” Rinehart explained. “Originally, four of us, Lynn Brumbaugh, Elmer Stidom, Ron Rees and myself, drove our own trucks to pick it up. It worked well.”
One day as Dean and Donna were driving past East Canton Auto Sales, they saw a former newspaper delivery truck parked on the lot. A sales order was signed Jan. 7, 2007, and the Big Brown Monster (as the truck was fondly named by the late Helen Rankin) was born.
Before long, Dean was hauling food for six local agencies: Loaves and Fishes, Carroll County on Aging (Senior Friendship Center), Malvern Christian Care Center, Atwood Angels and Hilltop Learning Center.
From August 2007 through the end of March 2018, Dean and his “crew” hauled 843 loads of food from the food bank to Carroll County and traveled 91,044 miles.
“I had a good crew of helpers,” Dean said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Originally, the truck made one or two trips a month to the food bank to supplement orders that were delivered to Loaves and Fishes. In August 2007, all hauling was turned over to Dean and his crew.
Soon they found themselves making two trips a week – Monday and Friday – to have adequate food to feed the 350-375 families served by Loaves and Fishes each month.
Dean and his volunteers didn’t just drive to the food bank and back, they loaded the food by hand and unloaded it when they arrived at their local destination.
“We hand loaded and unloaded the food because we wanted to get as much as possible,” explained Dean. “On Monday, we hauled orders for five of those agencies.
For several years Dean and Donna purchased eggs for Loaves and Fishes, about 250 dozen a month, and re-packaged them in six-and-12 egg cartons. They also coordinated the effort to provide milk for Loaves and Fishes.
“That was time consuming,” he said, a smile crossing his face.
He laughed as he talked about being creative to find a way to haul ice cream from the food bank to Carrollton.
“We made our own coolers,” he said. “We took banana boxes and lined them with Styrofoam. It worked and the ice cream was still frozen when we arrived in Carrollton!”
The Big Brown Monster was replaced by two ten-foot former U-Haul box trucks and was sold.
The keys to the box trucks were turned over recently to the Senior Friendship Center and the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry.
Over the 11 years he was a volunteer driver, Dean and his crew delivered over 1.9 million pounds of food to Loaves and Fishes, 393,074 pounds to the Golden Age Retreat, 86,502 to the Friendship Center, 253,665 to Malvern Christian Care Center, 168,287 to Atwood Angels and 14,806 to Hilltop Learning Center for a total of over 2 million pounds of food.
They also drove over 91,000 miles and hauled 843 loads.
Dean continues to haul food for Atwood Angels, saying it amounts to about 3,000 pounds per month.
Dave Myers, Tom Shafer, Duane Kienzle and John Clark are volunteering their time to fill Rinehart’s shoes and Rev. Gordon Warner, director of the Loaves and Fishes, is learning the ordering system.
Warner said he worked with Rinehart the entire time and is thankful for his dedication to the program.
“The first time I met him, he was coordinating a potato patch,” Warner said. “They gave the potatoes away to the food pantry.”
“He poured more hours into Loaves and Fishes than anyone else has,” Warner said talking about Rinehart’s volunteer efforts. “His dedication allowed us to procure more food than we would have otherwise been able to. We are now looking for volunteers to step up and try to fill his shoes. We are uncertain of just how things are going to work out without him. We may have to cut back on the amount of food we give out to families.”
As for Rinehart, he has no plans of cutting off his volunteer work.
He continues to serve as treasurer for three accounts at the Golden Age Retreat and is involved in the Carroll County Chapter of the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hunger chapter.
“Donna said she’s ready to give up sorting eggs,” Dean said. “We like to travel and are planning a three-day bus trip to Pennsylvania.”
For the first time in a long time, the couple enjoyed a three-day visit with their son over Easter.
“It was nice because we didn’t have to be back Monday so I could to make a food run,” he said.