NEWCOMERSTOWN — St. Valentine’s Day occurs but once a year on Feb. 14. It’s a time to share the message of love with those special people in your life. Cards, candy, a bouquet of flowers, or in some cases, all three are given to spouses, significant others, family members or friends. 

St. Valentine’s Day at Journey’s End Ministries will be just one of many days out of the entire year that their volunteers share the message of true love. 

That true love is delivered to the many individuals that receive the free services that Journey’s End offers to the community. 

Janet Gore, program director for the past three years, said there are currently 70 volunteers working in various capacities at Journey’s End. Some work in the food pantry, some work in the clothing and household distribution, while others are offering counseling and spiritual support. 

Gore said these volunteers are dedicated and have a genuine interest in helping their fellow man. Many of them are not your typical volunteer either. Some are so dedicated to their mission that they will arrive at the site several hours earlier than they are scheduled to arrive. The volunteers are just that — they are not paid — and seem to get their rewards from seeing the joy that they give to the individuals seeking their assistance. Gore said she feels blessed to have so many caring and wonderful volunteers to work with. 

Gore said 40,000 people have been fed through the program this past year, which equals 793,000 pounds of food at an estimated cost of $38,000 — all donated. She said some funding is received through federal monies. Gore is constantly checking the Internet and other sources to see what is available. She said there are many services offering free food and other items on a daily basis. She said it takes a bit of work on her part, as well as the volunteers. 

Many of the items have to be picked up by someone. Most of the food is received through the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank. 

Hugh Everson, a Newcomerstown resident, and volunteer at Journey’s End for the past three years drives to Akron at least twice a week to retrieve the food items. Everson’s wife, Irma, who is also a volunteer, and has been with Journey’s End for about six years now. 

The ministry also offers gently used clothing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 to 11 a.m., and 3 to 5 p.m. The clothing is free, unlimited amounts and no requirements. The clothing ministry gave out over 198,000 pieces of clothing last year. 

The food pantry, however, does have limitations and requirements. Patrons must reside within a 10-mile radius of the site and must meet specific income guidelines. The food pantry patrons are registered and have the opportunity to shop in the pantry on a weekly basis. Journey’s End  reportedly has the largest food pantry in the food bank’s region (Akron-Canton region), this consists of eight counties, which includes Tuscarawas County. 

Spiritual counseling support is another free service that the volunteers are involved in. The spiritual counselors work in a two person team three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). 

Volunteer Sandra Dobson, a retired elementary school teacher, said, "Besides the physical need, we want to help meet the spiritual needs, too." 

Dobson said the program offers a home Bible study that looks at the entire Bible, but breaks it down into concise, easy to follow booklets. To date, there have been about 700 individuals that have studied the course at various levels since 2003. Those completing the course receive a personal monogrammed Bible. The spiritual counseling team also includes Pastor Kenny Wayne Porcher, Harry Kenny, Pastor Russ Ham, Pastor Nelson Miller, Faye Carrico, Pastor Tom Barber, Pastor Chauncey Eggon, Terry Versch, Ruth Adkins and Helen Heston.

"We (Journey’s End) are in awe about the responses we have had in the past few years, helping so many individuals. We want to see other communities start programs similar to ours,"  Director Gore said. 

Medina and Alliance have both recently visited the site to obtain information on how they could possibly start programs, Gore said. 

A point that she wants to make with the community is that everyone and anyone is welcome at Journey’s End. 

"We do not discriminate or want anyone to feel embarrassed to receive assistance. We treat everyone that comes through the door as a friend. We want them to feel comfortable here," Gore said. 

Her goal is to break down the stigma attached to charitable programs. 

"Any one of us could face the same situation and some of us have already been in the same situation," she said. 

The program also offers medication prescription assistance and gas vouchers if the individual meets income eligibility guidelines. They are also set up to assist the local Salvation Army, if necessary, and have also assisted families that have lost everything due to house fires. 

"We are giving from our hearts to those that are in need. This is truly God’s work in progress," Gore said.

Journey’s End Ministries invites anyone interested in joining the team of volunteers or anyone wishing to make donations to contact them, or stop by and see for yourself the meaning of unselfish love and compassion.