Douglas County’s only food pantry serves hundreds each month
As the only food pantry in Douglas County, Heart of the Hills in Ava serves more than 300 families a month. This agency—which is run primarily by volunteers—provides more than just food for people who are struggling to make ends meet. The agency also area assists residents with rent payments, insurance, and donations of hygiene items and clothing.
Jana Hesterlee, who has served as the director of Heart of the Hills for 18 years, believes that the agency helps improve the lives of neighbors who are going through tough times.
“We help them put food on the table each month,” she shared. “I think that we really help make their lives better.”
With the help of about 30 volunteers, Heart of the Hills runs five food distributions each month. The agency began partnering with Ozarks Food Harvest in 1991.
“We see a lot of seniors and small families come through,” Jana said. “Most of them get a small amount of food stamps, and they need a little extra help from us.”
Several years ago, Heart of the Hills received a walk-in freezer from Ozarks Food Harvest, which allowed the pantry to begin storing more frozen meats for distribution days. Last year, a generous donor provided the pantry with 330 hams for Thanksgiving, and thanks to the freezer, Heart of the Hills was able to store and distribute each one of these to local families.
The pantry also provides emergency food assistance for families who can’t wait until the next distribution day to get what they need for their families.
Jana recalls a story from a few years ago, when a woman came in for emergency food assistance after spending her budget for the month on doctor’s visits for her kids.
“We were able to get her the food she needed for the family, and when she told me that it was almost her daughter’s birthday, we were also able to get her cake mix, candles and a some fun clothes and jewelry from our thrift shop so the girl could play dress-up for her birthday!” she expressed.
Ozarks Food Harvest is grateful to partner with such an incredible organization in Douglas County. Thank you so much for all you do, Heart of the Hills!