COLUMBUS, Ohio – During the Great Depression era, Mary Ann Grove's grandmother welcomed homeless travelers exiting trains onto her steps in Tell City, Indiana, and fixed them a hot meal.
Her mother and sister have dedicated themselves to feeding the poor as well.
And that tradition of selflessness continues in Grove, who chalks it up to her genes.
"It is just sort of in there, you know? It may be in the DNA," said Grove, 70, a retired substitute teacher who lives in Columbus' Indian Hills neighborhood on the city's Northwest Side.
Over the decades, Grove has bought and collected warm clothing, blankets and candles for the homeless to keep them warm in wintertime. She has purchased suitcases, wheelchairs and medical supplies for people in need overseas.
And when the hot food line at Holy Family Church in Franklinton closed down in March 2020 due to COVID-19, Grove sprung into action. Each week, she would assemble and deliver around 40 to 50 snack packages — consisting of a protein, drink, fruit, chips and a sweet treat — to the church for the homeless people it serves.
Grove quickly worked her way up to 100 packages a week and added in more items, such as granola bars, tuna salad and cracker boxes, Vienna sausages, and Hostess cupcakes — anything to make sure the contents of the bags were tasty.
"We're not going to give them something that we're not going to eat ourselves. So, you know, it has to be good," Grove said.
Grove has delivered thousands of snack bags to area churches
Grove said she has delivered more than 7,400 snack bags to Holy Family Church since the pandemic started. And that doesn't count the food and supplies that she drops off at other churches, including Immaculate Conception Church in Clintonville.
Grove said she's never counted up the cost of the food and supplies for the bags. She said she spends to help others until she can't anymore. She even used her stimulus checks to buy food that she then donated.
"It's just like I don't count when I give somebody a present, you know, like at Christmas. I buy until I'm done," Grove said.
She said she'll visit grocery stores every day, and if she happens to see good food on clearance, she'll buy it to include in the bags that she typically assembles with friends.
Grove said that she tries to make sure to add some holiday whimsy on special days. For Easter in 2020, she included chocolate bunnies and jelly beans in the bags. For Valentine's Day, each bag containing a signed Valentine with a message like, "To our new friend."
Grove said there are "pockets of good people" who have helped her cause, whether by donating their funds, resources or time. And for her, providing this help was — and continues to be — a no-brainer.
"I came home and told my husband, 'How can we possibly eat three meals a day when these people are not even getting any hot meals anymore?'" she said.
'It's just a wonderful way to see someone live their faith'
Jean Scholz Mellum, Grove's neighbor who nominated her as an Everyday Hero, said she was not surprised to hear about her generosity.
When Scholz Mellum first moved into the neighborhood in 2016, Grove gave her a pot of colorful mums as a welcoming gift, and one year she surprised the neighborhood by decorating the whole street with flags for Labor Day.
Scholz Mellum said the work that Grove has done for the needy over the past year has embodied the American way of showing kindness and respecting others.
"It's just a wonderful way to see someone live their faith. That freedom to live your faith in the way you see the best ... Mary Ann is demonstrating that," Scholz Mellum said. "I'm so proud of her. She's just a wonderful neighbor."
Grove said that she's really happy to be able to help provide for those less fortunate, and that doing so is second nature.
"There might be a lot of bad things going on, but there are so many good things going on also," Grove said. "And it was fun. So, that's what we did. That's what we do. That's all I know."