Community Cupboard’s director Citizen of the Year

— Sally Samblanet’s hard work, dedication and leadership recognized

by Allen Gress

Herald Correspondent

Rotary President Bill Wood schemed to get Sally Samblanet to attend the Constitution banquet last Wednesday night at Paradise Church. After all, the main award he was presenting was to be secret, a surprise.

The plan was to present the Community Cupboard with a check for $1,000 from the Rotary Club, a part of the club’s philanthropy mission. But the Rotary has sponsored the Citizen of the Year honor for the past 29 years and this year’s honoree was Sally Samblanet, the 9-year director of the Community Cupboard.

“The Citizen of the Year Award is reserved for someone who is selfless in giving their time and talents to make our community a better place,” Wood said in his introduction at the banquet. “This year’s Citizen of the Year gives tirelessly month after month, year after year, to aid the health and welfare of hundreds of our children and families.”

“Sally Samblanet, the 2014 Citizen of the Year, is a person whose mission is to serve the basic human needs of food and nutrition,” Wood continued. “Sally recruits volunteers, donations, corporate support and ensures that those who are too proud to accept help feel welcome.”

“Never in my wildest dreams did I know I would be so honored,” Sally said. “I thought they were talking about David Scheurer . . . really, I was taken aback.”

“But really, any honor I get belongs to the many volunteers who keep our organization going,” she said.

Sitting in the first floor of Koontz Memorial Lutheran Church, the home for the Cupboard, Sally reminisced over the past 13 years the Cupboard has been in existence.

Her daughter Amy was one of the founders and Amy’s enthusiasm was infectious. Just ask her husband Brad.

“Amy began with a food drive as part of her Girl Scout merit badge requirements,” Sally explained. “She set up a food collection stand at the Pumpkin Patch, a project of the Louisville Women’s Club. Later she was on a trip to Washington, D.C. and saw homeless people for the first time. And the idea for the food pantry grew.”

“Getting a place to store our food collections was a challenge,” she said. “Rev. Ralph Gibson was involved early and has been a guiding light ever since.”

There were people in Louisville who thought a food pantry give-away was not needed here. “But I had worked in the Louisville Schools and I knew there were many families that needed help.”

The Community Cupboard is non-denominational and provides services to all residents living in the 44641 zip code. “People don’t have to believe in a certain way . . . if you are in need, you’re in need!” is the Cupboard’s philosophy.

But Sally worries about communicating with those in need. “The Herald is good to us,” she said. “But it’s hard to get the word out . . . we sometimes have specials, sometimes we have special social services available.”

There is a community garden and residents have given tons of freshly grown vegetables, according to Sally. The Community Cupboard has a Facebook page that helps.

Sally credits Tom, her husband of 43 years, as her pillar of support, understanding and, most of all, love.

An LHS graduate, Class of ’69, Sally met Tom in her sophomore year. He was a St. Thomas Aquinas student. They now have two grandchildren, —Arielle a second year student at Kent State, and Casey, a senior at LHS.

Sally loves to tell the story of a certain block of sidewalk across from the south entrance to the football stadium. For there, now faded from the wear of thousands of feet coupled with the ravishes of time, Tom once carved a heart in the newly formed concrete carrying the message Tom loves Sally. He was 17 then.

“I’ve told the Street Department that if they ever tear up that sidewalk, I want that chuck,” she said.

At the time little did Tom know what a sidewalk-sized heart would mean, for Sally’s work with the Community Cupboard has proved what a big heart she really has.