Fremont Youth and Community Outreach, also known as FYCO, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Fremont. They operate as a food pantry, but their mission goes beyond addressing hunger. Melissa Higbee, executive director, shared, “Our goal is to stand alongside them as friends and neighbors. We want to see people and help equip them to become successful and care for themselves.” Working with FYCO is a labor of love for Melissa and her daughter, Sarah Kirkingburg. They have been involved in the daily operations since January—though they volunteered with the pantry many years before that. FYCO offers twice-monthly food distributions for families throughout the county. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, the number of families they work with has jumped from 200 to 450.
Melissa shared that they often see big families with multiple children who are in need of a little help to get by. FYCO also offers home food deliveries to a small group of seniors through a program called CSFP. In order to be successful, FYCO relies on partnerships with other nonprofits. For example, the Steuben County Council on Aging has worked with FYCO to identify seniors in need of assistance and connect them to the resources they need. FYCO has also previously collaborated with local shelters, several area churches, and other organizations to help distribute donations to people in need.
FYCO’s organizational culture is centered on the expectation that all people are worth knowing and deserve dignity. They prioritize making personal connections with clients and offering the ability to make choices. In the future, FYCO hopes to expand to provide services that help clients with substance abuse and self-harm issues. This could also include a building for hosting parenting classes, a greenhouse for teaching gardening skills and growing food, and assistance with job interviews. FYCO also hopes to have a children’s home as part of their ministry called Hope House. Melissa shared that a core group of volunteers who are passionate about helping people keep plans for FYCO’s future aligned with its mission.