Posted by John Butterfield on Jan 24, 2018
Nick Linkenhoker has had a way of taking jobs that matched his background, interests and skills at the right time in his career. His membership in our club is another example of Nick making a move at the right time and for the right reasons.
“Since I have lived in Worthington for less than three years, I hope my involvement in the Dublin-Worthington Rotary Club will help me experience more of the community where I have chosen to make a home,” he says. “I view my membership in the club as an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way.”
Nick joined the club on November 1, and his sponsor is President-Elect Alan Grossman. He would like to develop personal and professional relationships based on community service and fellowship.
The volunteer director of the Worthington Resource Pantry (WRP), Nick says he appreciates the warm welcome he has received so far from club members and looks forward to being engaged. “Too many nonprofits go to service clubs to get support,” he stresses. “I want to make sure I am doing my part to be a meaningful contributor to the club.”
Nick has already participated in the community service committee and will also be a member of the membership committee. He is also excited about being part of the club’s Fourth of July community celebration event. His goal is to meet every member as quickly as possible.
Nick grew up in Bellevue, Ohio, a rural community about 15 miles from Sandusky. His family resided in town, but most of his friends lived on farms.  His dad worked in plastic processing engineering, and his mother was a teacher for a parochial school. In high school, he played tennis and was involved in the theater and band, where Nick played the trumpet. He was also a member of the Quiz Bowl Team and an Eagle Scout.
In 2005 Nick graduated from Bellevue High School in a senior class of 120 and entered The Ohio State University. He was a member of the
Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and served at its president. Its guiding principles are leadership, friendship, and service, and one of one of the group’s responsibilities is to ring the victory bell in the football stadium. He helped grow the organization from a handful to 35 when he graduated.  Today the fraternity has approximately 150 members, which Nick attributes to the emphasis on service in high schools and among families. “They’re even screening and interviewing students who wish to join the fraternity now,” Nick says proudly.
During his junior year Nick spent a semester as a legislative aide to a Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa. He wrote speeches, gave tours and did a lot of communication work with constituents.
Nick graduated from Ohio State with a B.A. degree in history in 2010. He had intended to go to law school, but with the economy in a recession and many of his classmates pursuing law school, he decided to seek employment instead.
He took a position through AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) at the American Legion Auxiliary in Zanesville. He worked with families of veterans and active duty reservists, helping administer support systems for them. It was a natural fit for Nick since his
grandfather was a veteran and many of the families from his hometown were also veterans. In fact, his first job in high school, arranged
by his grandfather, had been working at a VFW Post. While he enjoyed the VISTA work, the social opportunities were limited so Nick returned to Columbus where he landed a job with a mortgage bank.
This work was inconsistent and not very fulfilling so in January 2012 he took a position with the Simon Kenton Council of the Boy Scouts of America as a district executive – another good fit for Nick with his Eagle Scout background. His district extended from Gahanna to Canal
Winchester and included 75 Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Venturing Crews. He worked with troop leaders in building membership
and fund raising, but what he really enjoyed was training new leaders. He spent 2-1/2 years with the scout organization and during that time
trained 400 leaders.
To focus more on his skills as a trainer, Nick sought employment with St. Joseph Hospice, overseeing volunteer training. The hospice program provided services for terminally ill patients who wanted to stay at home rather than be at an assisted-living or nursing-home facility. Nick’s role was to train volunteers who would visit individuals and their family members once or twice a week.
While the work was meaningful for Nick, St. Joseph faced stiff competition for these services with area hospitals, so in February 2016 he took hiscurrent position at the WRP.
The WRP is more than a pantry. It is a resource center that educates, feeds and comforts people who need a helping hand during rough economic times.
In 2017 the center served approximately 4,900 people in the six zip codes of the Worthington School District, providing well over a quarter
of a million meals to 1,500 area families. Forty-three percent of those served were youth; 20 percent were senior citizens.
Nick’s role involves recruiting, training and on boarding. His work starts with helping volunteers complete their application and ends when they feel comfortable in their volunteer role.  The challenge, he points out, is putting people in a role that fits their needs and expectations. He finds that giving people a range of choices is the key. Sixty percent of those who complete their volunteer orientation volunteer more than once.
Last year Nick worked with nearly 500 volunteers at the WRP, which includes those who had a single volunteer experience to individuals
who volunteered on many occasions. Approximately 300 individuals volunteered at least twice, and about a third of the volunteers were under 18. “We are extremely fortunate to have so many people who are concerned about their neighbors and want to help out,” Nick says. “This is truly a community of caring individuals, families and businesses.”
The staff at the WRP is lean with 3-1/2 employee positions so having an active group of volunteers is essential to fulfilling the organization’s mission. Most volunteer positions are scheduled on a three-hour shift with 12 to 15 people on a shift.
The variety of volunteer opportunities include: sorting, inspecting and repacking food donations, stocking shelves, greeting families and
answering their questions, and helping families choose their groceries. Volunteers may also assist with administrative duties, direct families to
available resources, participate in food drives and work on special events and fund raising. There are volunteer opportunities for both individuals and groups.
Nick says the center really appreciates all of the donations of canned goods and other foodstuffs from individuals, families, schools and other organizations, and businesses. The challenge is balancing the in-kind donations with the needs of those being served throughout the year.
Another challenge is raising funds for the basic needs of families and special projects. The center can turn a $50 donation into 300 meals and a $100 donation into 600 meals.
Retail partners that provide meat, produce and bakery goods include three area Kroger stores, two Target stores, Hills Worthington Market, the local Fresh Thyme, Little Cesar Pizza and Pepperidge Farm.
The Dublin-Worthington Rotary Club has supported the WRP since its beginning, and last fall the community service committee spearheaded drives for food, personal items and small items of warmth. In addition, four club members are WRP volunteers. Jerry Katz is the treasurer of the organization’s board, where he serves with Darnell Perkins and new member Don Mottley. Bill Shantz has also volunteered, and Kip Patterson helps unload the monthly shipment of dry goods from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank,  the center’s partner agency. It’s heavy lifting as the food bank and retail partners provide the pantry with the lion’s share of its food and grocery products, about 353,000 pounds a year combined.
Nick is married to Jeanine, whom he met in college through one of his high school friends. At the time the three were living in the same co-dorm. Jeanine, who is originally from Grove City, is the training and staff development manager for OSU’s Bursar’s Office, which processes
tuition, financial aid, fees, campus housing and other university-related charges. She is in her eighth year of employment with the university and will celebrate her first year in her current role in March.
The couple moved from Grandview to Worthington in June 2015. Their home in the Wilson Hill neighborhood is directly across the street from club member Abramo Ottolenghi. Coincidentally, the two families moved into their respective homes during the same week.
Nick enjoys new travel experiences and puttering around the house, not to be confused with major renovation work. He is a member of the Knight’s of Columbus, a Catholic men’s group, and is completing his year as president of the Volunteer Administrators’ Network of Central Ohio. He was recently appointed to Worthington’s Community Relations Commission.