CLARKSVILLE – Offering a helping hand in the rural Clarksville and Fredericktown areas is something that is needed on a daily basis.

The situation in this once-coal-rich part of the Mon Valley worsened when the economy came to a near halt this month because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Michael Ozohonish, a teacher and owner of a local bar and restaurant.

“I felt bad, said Ozohonish, who teaches social studies in the Bethlehem-Center School District and owns Ozy’s Bar & Grill in Jefferson Township, Greene County.

“We knew a lot of people around here had lost their jobs.”

He decided three weeks into the stay-home initiative to prepare 100 free spaghetti dinners, including many that were delivered to shut-ins with little prior notice.

Through social media, the number of meals increased to 200 a week later and climbed to 300 last Sunday. He and his wife, Kristen, are preparing “full-blown” Easter Sunday dinners, with turkey and ham on the menu.

And, midway through the week, Ozohonish started delivering free meals in the area to people who are working on the front-lines of COVID-19, including grocery story clerks and a personal care home workers.

More than $2,000 in donations to fund the meals have poured in, with some of the money coming from strangers, he said.

“The generosity has been overwhelming, Ozohonish said Thursday. “I’m shocked.”

Lozosky’s Personal Care home in Clarksville was among the businesses whose workers received a visit Wednesday from Ozohonish.

Owner Lori Lozosky said the free meals were needed and also delivered a morale boost to her employees, some of whom have been working hungry because they’re afraid to go to grocery stores.

“The residents are isolated. The workers are isolated,” Lozosky said.

“It felt so good to be part of a community that cares.”

Ozohonish said the area always pulls together to help people when there is a tragedy.

Two of his laid off employees have been volunteering at the restaurant to help with the meals.

Staff Writer

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley.

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