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Woman who died in crash were volunteers at food pantry

The Elizabeth Abel Food Pantry in Elkhart held a short ceremony in honor of two volunteers who died in a car crash Oct. 25.
Posted on Nov. 1, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Nov. 1, 2013 at 7:16 p.m.

ELKHART — In a quick, though emotionally packed ceremony, Carla Pontius talked with the volunteers and customers at the Elizabeth Abel Food Pantry about two women who gave their time to help others Friday morning.

The two women, Dawn Leatherman, 47, and Alice Barnes, 69, died in a car crash Oct. 25, at the C.R. 5 Indiana Toll Road overpass.

Just like every Friday morning, Leatherman and Barnes were on their way to the food pantry on Oct. 25, when their vehicle slipped on black ice, sending the vehicle off the left side of the center line into another vehicle’s path.

Pontius, director of the Elizabeth Abel Food Pantry, said Medflight landed on the church parking lot the day of the crash. In the middle of all the confusion, the volunteers at the pantry learned that Leatherman and Barnes were the people involved in the crash.

“Many of us drove over that same bridge just before they did,” Pontius said during the ceremony.

She said that as a result of the crash she wanted to thank the volunteers for their constant service to the pantry.

“I don’t want to wait until other volunteers pass away to let them know how much I love them,” she said.

Ruthmere Museum donated 30 mums for the food pantry’s volunteers. Pontius said the mums were her way of thanking the volunteers for their work.

The ceremony ended shortly after, in order for the volunteers to get the food pantry running.

Leatherman and Barnes lived close to one another, and they would drive every Friday morning to the food pantry. They would help run the closet most of the times, Pontius said.

Volunteers at the pantry knew of Leatherman and Barnes. Lora Pullin and Tim Cassity said that although they didn’t interact with Leatherman and Barnes outside of volunteering, they saw them working at the pantry most of the time.

Pontius said Leatherman and Barnes would drive to Middlebury, Goshen and other places to pick up items for the food pantry.

They were also in charge of organizing the closet, folding clothing items, hanging them and putting them out on display. Sometimes they would take some of the clothing items home to wash them before displaying them the next week.

Pontius decided to name the closet in memory of Leatherman and Barnes.

“They did so much for so many others, not just us but their families.” Pontius said. “The one was a grandma type, always looking after others. But everyone told me Dawn was their best friend.”

Meanwhile, volunteers said they were grateful to help out at the pantry every week and to work with Pontius as well.

Pullin talked about Pontius, saying she was a caring person, always looking out for other.

“Every person who comes through the pantry, she gives them a hug,” Pullin said. “She’s got a good heart, it just makes us feel good.”


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