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Master Provisions: Florence-based global charity makes impact by helping those who help others



By Shelly Whitehead
NKyTribune Contributor

Though the Florence-based global charity, Master Provisions, has been working its generous magic worldwide since the mid-1990s, the group just started a regional division in 2014. And in just two short years, the impact the organization has had on the overall effectiveness of more than 200 other charities locally has been nothing short of phenomenal.

“We’re working with a little over 205 organizations locally actively,” said Master Provisions Director of Food Operations and Regional Outreach John Eldridge.

“We actually meet with them so we can understand what their need really is because we want to be in a relationship with these groups.”

Through those relationships, Eldridge and the other core staff at Master Provisions work tirelessly to assist our area’s charities in fulfilling their very urgent missions to do everything from providing food and medicine to the needy, to helping people in extreme circumstances learn the skills needed to obtain better jobs. In fact, on a recent chilly morning inside the busy and sprawling Master Provisions warehouse in Florence, one of the groups they assist – Go Pantry in Boone County– had stopped by for supplies.


Laura Dumancic

Go Pantry Director Laura Dumancic said Master Provisions not only helped them start their work providing take-home food for Boone County School students in need, but she says the organization’s assistance has also been instrumental in helping them to expand their reach.

“We got together as a group of seven families and we started providing food to those kids in our school,” Dumancic said. “The way we were able to do that is we came to Master Provisions and John Eldridge that runs the food distribution portion of Master Provisions – he was our support.

“Since then we have grown quite a bit and we have quite a few more schools and now we do a lot through food drives, as word has gotten out throughout Boone County. The way Master Provisions helps us now is that John is a very savvy buyer and he’ll help us get food we need at a much better cost then we could get on our own.”

Fulfilling mission of helping the helpers

That, invariably, is how it has worked for all the local organizations that have approached Master Provisions for help with everything from storage and supplies to training and volunteer support. The groups bring their specific challenges to Master Provision’s handful of full-time employees, who then use their expertise to help each group achieve its goals, regardless of the faith involved in the project or how ambitious it may be.

Master Provisions

Master Provisions has served about 35,000 people in need over the last two years.

The results over the last two years since the inception of the local division speak for themselves. For instance, each month locally, Master Provisions provides:

About 600,000 pounds of food.
Goods and service to about 35,000 people in need.
2,000 hours of volunteer work.

But that is just a glimpse of Master Provisions’ local impact. The organization also works globally in Eastern Europe, South America and South Africa, providing care and finding homes for hundreds of orphaned children in places like Togo and Ukraine, as well as sourcing, sorting and shipping about 750,000 pounds of clothing to the needy worldwide each year.

The clothing initiative alone requires a monumental volunteer effort, like that recently put forth by a group of Miami Valley Christian Academy high school students to sort through hundreds of pieces of donated clothing en route to those in need overseas.

A Miami Valley coach and teacher with the students said the teens not only enjoy helping out, but in doing so, he believes they gain a lifelong awareness of the needs of others.

“It’s one of those habits … they will continue through their lives,” said teacher, Russ Thiesens.


Outreach is another Master Provisions mission

Master Provisions Director of Clothing Operations and International Outreach Matt Westwood agreed, adding that volunteers like the students on hand that day are absolutely essential to everything Master Provisions does in this community and others, worlds away. And he says, their contributions have a ripple effect that only appears to grow day by day in helping to spread the spirit of helping across our region.

The art and science of “obsessive inclusion”

In that way, Master Provisions keeps growing and giving birth to new ambassadors of their mission, who are also committed to carrying forth this vital work in all its forms. They are people like John Eldridge and the other one-time corporate executives here, who left the profit-based business world to take up what could be argued is more important, albeit probably less profitable work here.


John Eldridge

The goal he says for all involved in Master Provisions work is not only to assist those in need but to genuinely respect and accept everyone they assist for their innate value as humans. It’s an approach Eldridge says one of the spiritual leaders at his own church refers to as “obsessive inclusion” – or acceptance of everyone, regardless of how much money they make, where they were born or how they worship.

And if Go Pantry’s success through their affiliation with Master Provisions is any indication of the effectiveness of that approach, it appears to be working perhaps beyond just about anyone’s initial expectations.

“We do hear feedback from our schools and … the kids who have started participating in our program – who receive that bag every week,” said Dumancic. “That confidence and security, along with the food’s nutritional value – they are doing better in school.”

Multiply that effect by at the 200 to 250 other organizations Master Provisions is assisting locally and its evident that they are becoming a huge community-wide catalyst for positive change that will surely propel our whole region and its people forward. In short, this is how people and communities change … for the better.

“We see people’s lives changed on a one-on-one basis, but also on a macro scale where we get to see communities locally, regionally and globally change because of what we do here,” Eldridge said.

“So it gets me up every day early in the morning and ready to work.”


Helping the helpers takes a lot of effort — staff and volunteer time.


Master Provisions is featured in the NKyTribune’s INSIDE NORTHERN KENTUCKY show on KET. You can still see it there or you can view the story on this link.

Here’s the schedule for upcoming shows:

INK schedule

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