The Food Pantry Is Her Passion And Her Clients Know It

Apr 8, 2016

Rose Smeltzer stands before the stocked shelves of the Westinghouse Valley Food Pantry.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Each month, about 20 volunteers help to hand out food to more than 200 individuals and families at the Westinghouse Valley Food Pantry in Turtle Creek. 

Among those volunteers is Rose Smeltzer, who serves as the pantry's coordinator. 

“This is my passion," Smeltzer said. "It is what I was born to do, I guess." 

Smeltzer also recruited her husband, children and grandchildren to help at the food pantry each month. 

Smeltzer has been volunteering at the pantry for four years and said it's not just about providing food, it’s also about supporting those who have hit hard times.

“I have compassion for everyone who walks through those doors, because in some form or another everyone has suffered those heartaches. We have all been in their shoes. And those who have not have been very lucky in their life,” said Smeltzer, who was visibly emotional while talking about her clients. 

In fact, not that long ago Smeltzer and her family were beneficiaries of the food pantry. She said volunteering is her way of giving back.

Food pantry client Leslie Williams said, “It’s a spiritual thing,” with Smeltzer, who she calls "Ms. Rose." 

“Ms. Rose connects to everyone who comes through here," Williams said. 

Williams and her five children rely on the Westinghouse Valley Food Pantry to keep food on the table, but at first she was embarrassed to ask for help. She said Smeltzer helped her overcome that feeling.

Now Williams' relationship with "Ms. Rose" goes much deeper. They call each other for encouragement during tough times and their children and grandchildren play together.

“Everybody needs somebody, and she is my somebody,” Williams said. “So I look at her as a God-given angel.”

The pantry is open from 8:30 a.m. to  10:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month. But throughout the month, families come to the pantry looking for emergency help and Smeltzer usually meets them with a box of food, some clothing if needed and a long list of other agencies to visit for help. 

And when there is a specific need that she cannot fill, Smeltzer reaches out to her connections in the community -- like the time a client needed shoes for her children and within a few days the food pantry had bags of shoes to hand out.

Smeltzer, who is 65, said she knows that when she loses her passion for her work at the pantry it will be time to move on, but she said, “I hope I’ll be doing this for a very long time."