McGuffey Society honors food bank founder

By Denise Dick


Joe Lordi founded the Mahoning Valley’s first food bank because he wanted to help others facing the same financial challenges that plagued him when he lost his job.

The William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society awarded Lordi of Boardman its 2016 Pioneer Award on Friday in a program at William Holmes McGuffey Elementary School. Lordi founded Gleaners Food Bank and Youngstown Community Food Center in 1983.

“I lost my job in 1981, and by ’82, I tried part-time jobs,” Lordi said.

But he wasn’t able to make ends meet.

“The electricity got shut off. The water got shut off,” Lordi said.

It strained his marriage.

He couldn’t get public assistance because officials told him his 1978 car was worth too much.

Before being laid off, he worked for KMart Foods.

He decided he wanted to help others, and he wrote to several area individuals and businesses, seeking help to begin a food bank.

Eventually, though, he received a registered letter, informing him that the bank was foreclosing on his home. He cried, asking God to help and promising to change his life.

He got a call a few days later from businessman J.J. Cafaro, who offered him a building for his food bank. Lordi told the businessman of his financial difficulties, and Cafaro helped.

Lordi prayed again, thanking God for his help.

“From there, things started to change,” he said.

Richard Scarsella, chairman of the historical society board, said when he was a classroom teacher in the city schools, Lordi helped him, providing food from the food bank for students in Scarsella’s class.

“He has literally fed hundreds or thousands of people,” Scarsella said.

Scarsella presented Lordi with a $500 check for the food bank.

The Pioneer Award recognizes outstanding leadership, scholarship, community service, contributions to the social, cultural, civic and educational welfare of the Valley, historical preservation and literacy efforts.

Retired state Sen. Harry Meshel, Sister Jerome Corcoran and artist and professor Al Bright are among past recipients.

William Holmes McGuffey, an educator, authored the “McGuffey Readers,” which was a series of standardized reading texts for most U.S. schools during the mid-to-late 19th century.

He was born in Pennsylvania, but his family moved near Youngstown when McGuffey was a child.