Dayton nonprofit feeding hundreds weekly during pandemic: ‘All are welcome’

Shirley Quinn and volunteers Faith Thompson and Jaimee Ryan prepare for a Expressions of Life food distribution. CONTRIBUTED
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Shirley Quinn and volunteers Faith Thompson and Jaimee Ryan prepare for a Expressions of Life food distribution. CONTRIBUTED

Dayton continues to pull through the COVID-19 pandemic, not on the back of one person, but on the shoulders of many people like Shirley Quinn.

Quinn, founder and CEO of Independence Builders United, is a community activist with a giant heart for helping her neighbors. The organization’s mission is building independence by increasing functional life skills for people with developmental disabilities.

During the pandemic, her organization has teamed up with local nonprofit Expressions of Life, where Quinn also sits on the board of directors, to feed residents struggling with employment and hunger amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Since its inception, the nonprofit Expressions of Life has assisted 1,500 local children and families by operating and hosting various programs, events and activities funded by in-kind services, donations and volunteers, according to its website.

“That’s my calling — to help others,” Quinn said. “I’ve been working with special needs for 12 or 13 years now, so I’ve had some of the same clients the whole time, and they’re just family now.”

Each Thursday, the two agencies team up with Prairie Farms Dairy to distribute enough produce, dairy products and other food to more than 200 families in need at 35 Shiloh Springs Road in Dayton. All people need to bring is themselves.

“One of the main questions people ask is what they need to bring to the distribution,” Quinn said. “‘Do I need to bring ID?’ They definitely don’t need to bring anything. I say just bring yourself and if you have family members or anybody that’s in need, you’re more than welcome to take them food boxes.”

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The best way to keep up to date with the distributions is by following the “What’s Going On In Dayton Ohio” Facebook page, where Quinn makes a weekly post, asking people how many boxes of food they need. People can also visit the EOL website at https://eolohio.org/.

“It’s just such a good feeling to know I’ve been able to be of service and make a difference in somebody’s life,” Quinn said. “It’s ingrained in me. My mother was that way, too. She was the type that would give anybody the clothes off her back, and I was raised with that concept of ‘If you’re able to help somebody, you help them.‘”

The weekly distributions wouldn’t be possible without her faithful volunteers, Faith Thompson and Jaimee Ryan, Quinn said.

Anyone interested in giving their time, which Quinn said is worth more than gold, is encouraged to call Independence Builders United at 937-522-0150.

“I think COVID-19 will bring the community together and just appreciate life itself,” Quinn said. “I think this will bring people together because so many people are suffering and without jobs, without money — just people are more aware of life itself.”