MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Day of Caring Pancake Brunch supports hunger, homelessness

A pancake may not seem very impressive, but in the hands of Janaki Venkayya it has become a community powerhouse. Thirty-three years ago, the Beavercreek woman determined to tackle the problem of hunger and homelessness in the Miami Valley by raising awareness and funds through a one-day pancake brunch. She dubbed it the “Day of Caring,” and enlisted the aid of 12 churches and 250 volunteers who served as many as 3,000 breakfasts that first year and raised $8,000.

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Now, 33 years later, the event has become a beloved annual tradition with dozens of churches and service organizations involved. On Sunday, Feb. 26, an estimated 4,000 guests will chow down on pancakes and sausage in an effort to help those less fortunate. “The uncertainty about the future is greater today than when we started 33 years ago,” Venkayya says. “Nowadays we don’t even know who could be standing in the lines for food and shelter. It might be someone who had a good job a year ago.”

The organization established the Simply Essential Hygiene Pantry and changed its name to Day of Caring 365 to reflect the commitment to serving people in need 365 days a year. The hygiene pantry provides local pantries and shelters with essential products ranging from shampoo to feminine products which cannot be purchased with food stamps.

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“Roberta Shiverdecker was a driving force in growing and establishing the pantry,” says Steve Pax, Day a Caring 365 Trustee. “Sadly, Roberta passed away suddenly in August of 2018. It seemed fitting that we rename the pantry Roberta’s Simply Essential Hygiene Pantry.”

This year patrons are asked to bring a personal hygiene product to the Day of Caring Pancake Brunch. Collection boxes will be available at each site.

Items most needed include:

  • Travel size shampoo and normal size shampoo
  • Travel size toothpaste & regular size toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes – adult & child
  • Regular size bars of soap
  • Men and women’s deodorant
  • Men and women’s razors
  • Shaving cream
  • Wash cloths
  • Feminine products.
  • Diapers

If you can’t attend one of the brunches but would like to support the pantry, please Email for more information on how to donate year-round.

Pax says the hope this year is to raise $15,000 for local emergency hunger and housing coalitions. Many new sites have been added. In addition to Montgomery County and the City of Dayton, Greene, Preble and Clark counties are also involved. Sites in Cincinnati and Springfield are also participating with money from ticket sales going back to the county in which they were raised.

Venkayya said the “Day of Caring” committee is now focused on increasing volunteers, especially younger people. More than 1,000 volunteers help out. During the past 33 years, the project has received about $1 million of in-kind donations — from paper napkins and coffee to orange juice and plastic utensils.

Though most sites offer the traditional sausage and eggs along with the pancakes, organizations are welcome to add their own specialties. Some sites include fresh fruit, or an omelet bar. All sites will have carry-out available.

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Venkayya, who has been honored as a Woman of Influence by the YWCA, is hoping to expand her idea to Columbus and Cleveland as well as Michigan in the next five years. She’s happy to report that over the years, 10,000 volunteers have contributed $850,000 to agencies ranging from The Foodbank and Habitat for Humanity to Green County Mobile Meals and St. Vincent De Paul.

Cost of the brunch is $6 for an adult, $4 for seniors and children. A complete list of brunch sites and the times they will operate can be found at the Day of Caring 365 Web site: For more information, call 937-931-2850.


Meredith Moss writes about Dayton-area nonprofit organizations and their specific needs. If your group has a wish list it would like to share with our readers, contact Meredith:

Please include a daytime phone number and a photo that reflects your group’s mission.

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