Around Christmas and Thanksgiving she always made sure people had food even if it meant getting up at midnight to take someone something.
by David Miller
Loveland, Ohio – During the 1980s recession, Eleanor Baker founded the Loveland Free Store in a tiny extension of the laundry room at the MacArthur Park Apartments on Park Avenue. The Loveland Free Store had humble beginnings and purpose. Eleanor started giving people the food out of her own cabinet and then got other people involved. People in the complex would often have bare pantries, and other tenants sometimes had a little something extra. Moms brought what they could to the laundry room and shared with the other moms so their friend’s children and the elderly would have food to eat.
The laundry room quickly became inadequate when the broader community found out what Eleanor was doing, chipped in and helped her collect food and daily necessities. The program grew and soon began organizing during Thanksgiving and Christmas to provide meals and presents for children. The Loveland Firefighters Association gave them space to operate from their Loveland Firefighter’s Hall at the intersection of St. Rt. 48, Broadway, and Second Street (the 5-Way intersection in Historic Downtown). Eventually, the Firefighters sold their building and it was demolished when the intersection was re-configured to what you see there today.
Unable to find a new “home” the Loveland Free Store closed in 1999. Several months later the community was called together to resurrect a program that was so vital to community life and thus, the L.I.F.E. Food Pantry was founded.
Over the years, Baker assisted un-told thousands of Loveland area residents when they faced economic hardship. She never had a normal Christmas in those days, because her months and even weeks after Christmas was spent collecting toys, food, turkeys, hams, and Christmas trees for people that didn’t have much during the holidays. Because Eleanor knew so many people, she became the go-to person for people having hard times as well as the economically affluent who had more than they needed and wanted to share their prosperity. For instance, Eleanor would know the boy scouts in town who were selling Christmas trees and knew that as Christmas Eve approached they would be willing to donate trees that otherwise would have sat un-sold on their lots. If the trees needed decorations, she found someone to donate those also – and knew someone with a pick-up or empty trunk who would gladly offer their Santa’s sled for delivery.
The days before Christmas Eve was chaotic at the Fireman’s Hall as volunteers came to help. They shlepped the donated presents and food up the steep steps to the Hall, sorted them, and helped carry overloaded, heavy boxes and bags back down those steps to an awaiting stream of parked cars lining O’Bannon Avenue below. Eleanor knew the people she was helping. She knew who was elderly. She knew the young moms and their children. She knew if there was a grandparent in their home and that they would appreciate some extra food or a thoughtful Christmas present. She ensured the bags and boxes were custom filled because she knew how many children were in households, and their ages.
Eleanor worked year-around providing essential food during a time the entire nation was suffering a recession and was aware of how deeply it affected her friends. Loveland Free Store volunteers made regular trecks to Downtown Cincinnati bringing back truck-loads of surplus U.S. Government USDA commodities. Peanut butter, butter, rice, and “government cheese”. The Loveland Free Store, saved lives when it became an unofficial distribution point of the federal food program.
Here are some comments found on social media about Mrs. Baker since the community became aware of her death:
Some of you may remember her from starting and managing the Loveland Free Store and also the manager of the Loveland Clark Gas Station.* She and my grandpa Bill Baker also owned and operated The Loveland Aquarium Pet Store. (*Where Dunkin’ Donuts is now located)
My Condolences to Eleanor’s family and friends.
Your Mom Mary Turner Botts and your Grandmother Meranda Campbell remind me of the many people I knew growing up in Loveland of fine character and loving hearts. The Best of Loveland.
I remember Eleanor as a hardworking, caring and kind lady…Eleanor will be missed as she contributed so much to so many. May she rest in peace in Heaven with the Lord and Savior.
I’m sorry to hear this. My mother Margaret Sandmayr knew her very well, they worked at the free store together. I would always stop and get gas to say hi.
She was a big part of Loveland.
Yes, I remember you and your mother Marge and your father I used to come up to their house because she had a kiln and she would fire up my ceramics that I did for the free store to raise money I also worked with her as we volunteered for the food pantry
Eleanor truly had one of the biggest hearts ever.
She was an amazing woman heart of gold
She was an amazing woman, she gave me a job at the Clark station years ago. Made sure I had food for Thanksgiving in 1990.
She was an amazing woman!! One Christmas she helped me get a tree for someone who wasn’t going to have one for her children and she got it and that night we dragged it down the street with all the ornaments on it to the family and there was plenty of crying and laughter! God bless you wonderful lady!!!
Yes I remember my mom doing that and a whole lot of other things through the years it’s amazing when you sit back and how the memories go flooding through your mind that you longed forgot about around Christmas and Thanksgiving she always made sure people had food even if it meant getting up at midnight to take someone something I did that with her many a time.
She used to bring my kids Christmas presents I could go on and on she was such a sweet lady she’s going to be missed.
Eleanor Baker was asked to run for mayor of Loveland she declined though everybody thought that knew her thought she would make a good mayor.
reminds me of the many people I knew growing up in Loveland of fine character and loving hearts. The Best of Loveland.
I remember Eleanor as a hardworking, caring and kind lady…Eleanor will be missed as she contributed so much to so many.
Eleanor (nee Snapp) Baker
Born July 13, 1938, to Daniel and Evelyn Opal (nee Dolson) Snapp and passed away December 5, 2019, at the age of 81.
Eleanor started the Loveland Free Store and was the manager of the Loveland Clark Gas Station. She loved her family and will be deeply missed.
She is survived by her children, Dan (Reva) Turner, Ronald (Shelly) Turner, Mary Turner, Darlene Turner, Theresa (Richard) Locke and Lisa (Todd) Miller; like a child Sharon Eddingfield; step-children, Jeff (Tracy) Baker and Bryan Baker; grandchildren, Angie, Colleen, William, Jared, Erica, Jessica, Tosha, T.J., Tori, Haley, Preston, Meranda, Adam, Emily, Shanea, Bryce and Zachary; numerous great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; a sister Betty.
In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, William T. “Bill” Baker; a son David Turner; grandchildren Rodney, Anthony, and Justin; a brother James; sisters Mary and Evelyn.
Memorial services will be held on Monday, December 9, 2019, at 7 PM at the Tufts Schildmeyer Family Funeral Home, 129 N. Riverside Dr. Loveland, OH 45140, where friends will be received from 6 PM until time of service.