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Shining Star: Bob Johnson

For New Cumberland's Bob Johnson, volunteering is a full-time job.

He spends 6 days a week as the volunteer coordinator at the Community Bread Basket in Weirton, but he says it’s nothing special.

“We’re united together,” Johnson says. “We have a lot of volunteers. It’s not about me. It’s about everybody, all of us.”

The retired mill employee started volunteering in 1989 as a member of the Tri-State Church of God. Now, at 81 years old, he just can’t imagine quitting as long as he is able to serve.

“I just can’t quit because God wants us to do something to help people,” Johnson said. “And we have people out there today, and it’s getting worse, that’s hungry.”

“That’s his mindset, making sure that people are fed,” says Jim Pauchnik, a Community Bread Basket board member.

Johnson estimates he and other volunteers serve upwards of 300 people, or an estimated 50-60 families, each month. Others at the Bread Basket say the food pantry makes additional visits to apartment complexes, bringing the average number of families helped up to more than 200 per month.

He says the need has grown dramatically since he began volunteering, and the Bread Basket never turns people away.

They receive food through donations, the Mountaineer Food Bank in southern West Virginia, and pick-ups of food from Walmart and Kroger that is nearing sell-by date but still good to eat.

Food distribution is held every Friday from 8 to 11 a.m., and Johnson leads the prayer beforehand each time.

Johnson leads a food pantry that should set the standard for others. The organization is impeccably neat, with shelves and freezers full of nearly everything a family needs to get by. A 501c3 agency of the Weirton United Way, the Bread Basket is need-based and open to those in Brooke and Hancock counties. They also offer utility assistance for those who cannot afford to pay their bills, and the Gabriel Room, a clothing bank for children ages newborn to five.

Johnson seems happy to help the community, though he does say the need for financial donations and more volunteers is growing. The Bread Basket especially needs younger people to help with loading and unloading trucks of food.

“I like it and I hope it keeps going on,” Johnson said. “I hope more people will get involved and help or donate something.”

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