Laketran Mobile Food Pantry receives state award

The Ohio Public Transportation Association recently recognized Laketran at their annual Excellence Awards ceremony at the Ohio Needs Transit Conference in Akron.

Laketran’s new Lake County Mobile Food Pantry program received the association’s inaugural 2021 Collaborative Excellence award given to a transit system to honor an innovative collaboration to improve lives in their community.

“Throughout this pandemic, our role at Laketran has been to listen to the challenges of the community and then look at the resources we have to see how we can best help our residents,” shared Laketran CEO Ben Capelle. “When seniors didn’t feel safe leaving their home, we needed a way to get food to them and Laketran was the most efficient way to do that. From that need emerged the Lake County Mobile Food Pantry program and it has been successful because of our program partners.”

Laketran shared the honor this week with Lake County Board of Commissioners, one of the founding partners of the program that emerged from delivering groceries to homebound seniors during the stay-at-home-order at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a blessing to personally volunteer for the Lake County Mobile Food Pantry,” said Commissioner John Plecnik.  “The Board of Commissioners Senior Services is truly humbled to receive the Ohio Public Transit Association Collaborative Excellence Award for our partnership with Laketran and so many caring nonprofits, like the Lake County Council on Aging, to lend a helping hand to those most in need, serve our seniors and feed the hungry.”

Additional community partners supporting the program include the Greater Cleveland Food Bank who donate fresh produce each week and Lifeline and Lake County Council on Aging who collect reservations for the program.

The Lake County Mobile Food Pantry operates weekly from the Mentor Park-n-Ride and provides low-income seniors access to fresh produce free. To date this year, the program has served 5,984 seniors households providing 60,870 pounds of food.

“While 2020 offered many unforeseen challenges for transit, it also presented many opportunities for us to serve and innovate,” said Laketran Board President Brian Falkowski. “We are honored to receive this statewide recognition among our transit peers and it’s even better to be able to share with organizations back home that we collaborate daily to best serve the residents of Lake County.”

Laketran bus operator, Wayne Schlee, was also recognized by the association with a Milestone Award for providing 30 years of accident-free driving to the agency.