Man’s kindness continues to grow


With the assistance of The Home Depot, Delaware resident Roger Hornbaker is once again doing his part to supply a local food pantry with large quantities of fresh produce.

On Thursday, approximately 10 volunteers from The Home Depot worked for hours at Hornbaker’s residence just north of Delaware, planting around 450 tomato plants. The tomatoes produced by the plants will all be donated to People In Need, Inc. of Delaware County, commonly referred to as PIN.

The operation is a continuation of Hornbaker’s annual commitment to helping those in need. Last year, Hornbaker estimates that 4,000 pounds of tomatoes were donated to PIN. With PIN’s food needs rising by 30% over the past year, Hornbaker said he tried to increase his efforts this season.

Hornbaker began donating his tomatoes to Mid-Ohio Foodbank in 2014 and continued to do so until the foodbank stopped running its truck service to pick up the produce. At that time, he connected with PIN in order to continue the yearly efforts. In total, he estimates 15,000 pounds of tomatoes have been donated through the years.

“They’re all donated to PIN, and they use them to supplement their food drives through the summer. Usually, we start around August and go through November,” Hornbaker told The Gazette.

PIN Director of Community Engagement Mallory Sribanditmongkol said Hornbaker’s goal this year is to donate 6,000 pounds of tomatoes, which would equate to a value of $10,000 or more. She added PIN served 266 households on Wednesday during its food pantry and produce market, so donations of produce from people like Hornbaker go a long way toward helping those less fortunate in Delaware County.

The importance of providing for those who aren’t sure where their next meal might come from has never been lost on Hornbaker because he and his wife were once those people desperate for food.

“My wife and I went through a time when we were hungry and we were out of food,” Hornbaker shared. “I had no job, and some neighbors were helping us. I didn’t want to tell the church how bad off we were. And since then, I’ve had a real soft spot in my heart for people who are hungry. That was really what started it.”

Although his wife passed two years ago, and Hornbaker is rising in age, he’s not ready to end his commitment to the community.

“I’ve continued on with it, and my kids keep saying, ‘Dad, you’ve got too much to do with that.’ And I tell them no, I enjoy doing it, and I like to see that people are taken care of,” he said.

Hornbaker said he’s always enjoyed growing tomatoes and has spent a lot of time trying to refine the best practices for producing the most tomatoes from his plants. He said he’s even watched how the major tomato producers in Florida and California operate to continue building his skills for large production in limited space.

The Home Depot team that helped Hornbaker on Thursday includes store and regional managers from the area. Hornbaker said the nature of Home Depot’s inclusion in the project came about naturally while he was visiting the Orange Township store to gather materials in preparation for planting.

“I was at Home Depot and was looking for 190 bags of compost manure because I have to supply all my materials for it,” he recalled. “I was shopping around for the best price, and I happened to walk in on a Saturday. The guy I was talking to, I thought he was a clerk. To my surprise, I found out he was the store manager, and he said Home Depot asks their people to donate a certain amount of time to charity work each month. He said he’d like to come to the farm and said the next time I go to buy (supplies), he’ll buy it in larger quantities and match the price of everywhere I’m going to try and get it, and he’ll also help with the planting.”

Hornbaker called the assistance a “Godsend” because he has knee issues that make the planting problematic and forces him to “crawl around on the ground.”

The planting was supposed to take place last week before Hornbaker landed in the hospital. Just before he was set to be discharged, Hornbaker had a heart issue that prolonged his hospital stay, but the Home Depot crew was flexible and remained committed to helping.

“I’m still kind of weak and weepy from all of that, and the manager said we’d plan it for this week, which was good,” Hornbaker said. “I started planning it, and I didn’t know that he would still help me. I thought he would maybe be able to come by himself, but he said he has nine others coming and we’re going to get this thing done.”

He added, “I appreciate it so much that they have taken an interest in it.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on X @DillonDavis56.

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