After feeding hungry people in Woodstock for over 30 years, volunteers at the Good Neighbor Food pantry were asked to leave the pantry’s space at the Woodstock Reformed Church by June 1, when the pantry will close..
This didn’t happen because there were no hungry people to use the pantry. This pantry has been one of the largest in the area since it expanded in the economic downfall of 2008. Before that time, shoppers were mostly a couple dozen single homeless men and Woodstock colorful characters.
With the economic downfall, patronage escalated from 25 people per week to hundreds. Hungry people filled the halls. The line filed out the door into the parking lot.
Before the economic downfall, people came in and got one or two each of four basic items: cereal, tuna fish, peanut butter, soup. About the time that the crowds began to shop for food, the food bank changed the system to include fresh produce and a three-day-supply of food for every person in the household.
People left the pantry with bags of food: eggs, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, items of dignity.
Church members and townspeople never really accepted these changes.
People resented the changes they didn’t ask for. This was understandable. No one likes change, especially uninvited change.
They liked feeling only a few people in town needed food.
They liked thinking the pantry was “theirs” when it really belonged to the Food Bank. After all, that’s where the food came from. That’s where volunteer training came from. That’s where food and rent grants originated.
With the changes in food served came training classes at the Food Bank. Funds became available to assist pantries with rent, and utilities. At that time, the volunteer coordinator applied for and received a $1,000 rent grant to pay the church annually.
The $1,000 rent grant was new for the Woodstock Reformed Church. No food pantry volunteers had paid rent money to help the membership.
At the time, the intention was to increase the amount annually. $8,000 was a long range goal.
$8,000 was not out of line if the refrigerators and freezers were moved from the unpainted barn in the parking lot to the church basement.
A nationally known fundraising guru, Kim Kline, taught interested nonprofit volunteers how to raise money. She based her success on the premise that givers give. She told everyone in the class exactly what to do.
After this class, pantry volunteers in Woodstock did exactly as she instructed.
These fundraising efforts at the pantry made the Good Neighbor Food Pantry a success story. Secrets of successful fundraising are outlined in detail on pages 196 and 197 of the book “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore.”
The Good Neighbor Food Pantry need not close. There is time to raise the money needed. There are probably still volunteers in this pantry who remember these skills taught by Kim Kline.
There is still time to feed the many hungry people who need this food. The need is greater now than it has ever been.
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Thank you for your interest in feeding hungry people. Our need is greater now than ever before.
Woodstock, New York
We live in a country today in which people struggle for food. While hunger reaches historic levels, some are unaware of the plight of their neighbors. Others are not concerned. Food insecurity doesn’t seem relevant. Even pandemic hunger cannot convince everyone.
One child in seven lives in poverty. The family regularly chooses between food and gas, food and medicine, food and rent.
Adults often work more than one job. Until, with the pandemic, many people’s incomes disappear.
Retirees find themselves too old to work, have more month than money, and try to hide their situation from children and grandchildren.
Our elected leaders have not chosen to address this situation with even a fair minimum wage.
Beginning in 2007, I fed hungry people in one food pantry for several years and then started another food pantry in a nearby community needing one.
In 2013, I began to write about hunger. My experiences and lessons learned filled books and a blog.
In 2018, I began a consciousness-raising practice on weekends at the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market in Woodstock, New York.
Time spent feeding the hungry taught me this:
There is no excuse for anyone in our great nation to go hungry.
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And, finally, don’t forget to tell them about our key hat!
Meet our new fashion model! Mikayla is wearing our latest creation: a knit cap with a key embroidered on the cuff.
A symbol of homelessness, this hat tells our story BEAUTIFULLY. Hopefully you’ll enjoy wearing it as much as others do. It’s only $15. Please go to www.thurmangreco.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to order your very own key hat!
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People needing to use a food pantry because they don’t have enough $$$, certainly don’t have resources for things like toothpaste, shampoo, razors, tampons, and other Items of Dignity.
There is something we can do about this little-known situation:
Hold an Items of Dignity drive. Actually, this is easier than a food drive because everyone seems to know what an item of dignity is.
People know what food is too, but some get confused about what is a good food item for a pantry. What about fresh produce? Is frozen food okay? are often asked questions during a food drive.
Items of Dignity don’t get stale. They don’t need refrigeration.
Actually, you hold an Items of Dignity drive the same way you hold a food drive: Gather your bags together, write your letter, and put them out in front of houses in the neighborhood you choose.
For more information about holding a food drive, please check out the last two posts. They reveal all the secrets.
When you donate these items to your chosen food pantry, the volunteers will be delighted.
If you are worried about having an Items of Dignity drive because the people may not need the items, don’t bother to worry. Right now, in our country, hunger reaches into all communities. Hunger is affecting people who never thought they would ever need food.
The items you collect and donate will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance for all you are doing.
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P.S. Please let me know how your food drive is going.
Congratulations! You had a food drive!
Your work isn’t done yet. Now is a good time to think about your next food drive. It will be easier and more fun than the last one because you know more about your tasks!
When you organize for the next food drive, you’ll get to see how your last one worked.
Celebrate your goal. Did you have anyone helping you?
This is a good time to go out for a pizza or ice cream. Enjoy what you did and discuss how you helped your community as well as yourselves!
Pat yourself on your back.
A few weeks after your food drive, check in with the food pantry or other group who received all your collections.
Were the foods you collected useful?
Were you able to get enough of one item for the group to have a surplus?
What foods would have been appreciated which were not collected?
How can you improve your future food drives?
Now is a good time to plan your next food drive!
design a fact sheet that lists some foods that are needed. (The agency you
donated the food to may already have one you can use).
Write and send out a press release about your food drive and plans for the next one.
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Woodstock, New York
It’s easier than you think.
Choose the food pantry, homeless shelter, school, church, food bank, or soup kitchen to receive the food you collect.
Contact your recipient, and learn what items the hungry people need. Try to be specific. Can they only accept canned food items or can they use frozen and fresh foods? What about pet food?
If they need pet food or food for homeless people, for example, request those items (with specific food item suggestions) at your drive.
Decide how you want to collect the donated food.
The method I prefer is, of course, the one that worked for me several times. I recommend this method:
Gather some large empty grocery bags in good condition.
Attach a letter to each one saying something like:
“We are having a food drive in this neighborhood. Please fill this bag with food and set it out on your entryway on ………………………….. when it will be picked up between 00:00 and 00:00. Include am and pm to be more specific.
We need the following kinds of food:……………………..
Your donated food will be donated to ……………………………… Thank you for your generosity. If you have any questions, please call…………………………………. Signed…………………………………….”
Set the bags out at every address in the area you selected.
On the appointed date, return to the addresses and pick up the bags of food.
Deliver them to the selected food pantry, homeless shelter, school.
Pat yourself on your back. You did a great job!
My experience with this food drive method is that people respond positively because you give them bags, tell them exactly what food items you need, and return to pick up the food at a specific time on an exact date.
Thank you in advance for all you are doing to feed your neighbors.
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Have a wonderful day!
Actually, there are literally thousands of foods which are good for a food drive. Choose the foods that make eating easy.
Many food drives and food distribution activities are springing up throughout our country. Thank Goodness!
People are shopping at food pantries and food distribution centers in greater numbers than ever before. People who never, ever, even paid attention to food pantries now find themselves in lines.
We have now reached the point where we all have choices: If we don’t need to shop at a pantry, then we need to give food to a pantry.
So, then, the question: What are good things to give?
The answer: any foods which make eating easy.
Breakfast foods include:
cereal, granola, granola bars, protein bars, shelf stable milk, juice.
peanut butter, jelly, canned fruit, canned pasta, tuna, mayonnaise, and catsup.
pasta with sauce, taco kits, canned soups, stews, canned beans, macaroni and cheese, canned tuna, salmon, sardines, chicken.
People shopping at a food pantry also need items such as salt, pepper, sugar, seasonings, cooking oil, mayonnaise, mustard, catsup, paper towels, paper napkins, forks, knives, spoons. Is there an item that you use regularly, maybe that item will be good for a food pantry gift.
Items of Dignity:
soap, shampoo, laundry soap, dishwashing soap, sanitary napkins, toilet paper. toothpaste, tooth brushes. razors
diapers, baby soaps, baby lotion, baby foods
pet food, both dried and canned; cat litter, puddle pads, gently used pet beds, leashes.
food that does not need refrigeration, food that can be distributed in single servings
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If you read my last post – “Food Pantry Rules” – you may have thought you were in some time warp. Travel had returned you to about 2010.
Well, not really.
The pandemic changed many details but the bones of a food pantry event are the same.
The volunteers and the people who shop at the pantry are the same.
Everyone comes together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
Food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, struggle with change they didn’t ask for.
They are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of people in the food pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around and realized they were in a car in a long line waiting for food.
There is a name for this category: SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when she lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, flood, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Food pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries.
A food pantry in the basement of a church is a cross between a church and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry in a line of cars in a pandemic is reminiscent of the mass food distributions we held periodically in New York State after the collapse of the economy in 2008.
A line of cars filled with people needing food wraps around the block, down the road, and even further.
A whistle blows.
The cars begin to move. A volunteer puts a bag (s) of food in each vehicle.
Everyone wears masks.
There are still food pantries where people show up to a church and receive a bag of groceries.
But, whether the food is distributed to hungry people in cars or to hungry people walking to a building, a food pantry distribution is not a program. It is a community made up of those who gather the food and distribute it, and those who receive it. The process of distributing the food to people creates a change in everyone.
The experience does not heal a person. Nor does it change the story. It does not offer therapy. The experience itself is a conduit for each person’s own spiritual growth and change.
Never once when I was involved in a food pantry did I kid myself into thinking that I was winning the war against hunger. And, I do not kid myself now.
I know this food pantry food distribution experience does not end hunger. Instead, it offers food for several meals. And, that is all.
Ending hunger is another matter altogether.
I do feel, though, that the rules are changing. The pandemic experience is altering the hunger situation dramatically, at least. The pandemic experience is altering the hunger situation permanently.
“How is that?” you ask.
The pandemic has changed how our food is grown and distributed. Food pantries are a link in the food distribution chain. This chain now looks different. The link connections are different.
“How is that?” you ask.
For one thing, the restaurant industry is different.
Food production and distribution is different.
I do not think we know yet just what the fallout is. We have yet to live out the end of this story. We’re living and experiencing the future. For some, it is hard to see the big picture because the changes have not yet come around for each of us to see and experience in our daily lives.
In any event, the Pandemic is not us what we think. Our opinions and preferences don’t count for much here.
One thing is certain, our future is destined to be different from a future without a Pandemic. Another thing is certain for me: We can never return to our past.
We are all destined to experience a new Pandemic future.
Whatever the future brings, we need to keep on feeding the hungry in whatever way that works.
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A food pantry is what it is because of three things:
the economic situation at the moment
the people who shop there.
The people come together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
While the coronavirus pandemic rages, the food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, deal with change they didn’t ask for.
In short, they are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of the people in the pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around a room and realized where they were.
There is a name for their category – SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when s/he lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, floor, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries. I always think of a food pantry in the basement of a church as a cross between a church service and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry, and those connected with it, are not a program. They are a community. As volunteers, all we really do is open the door. As all the hungry people walk through the door, they undergo a change somehow.
Each person in a pantry, in whatever capacity, has experienced rejection in some way – too young, too old, too crazy, too sick, too poor, not poor enough.
The food pantry experience does not heal a person, nor does it change the story.
The food pantry experience does not offer therapy.
The food pantry is, instead, a conduit for each person’s own healing.
FOOD PANTRY RULES
Sign your name in the register as you enter the pantry.
Find a place in line.
Do not crowd or block the door to the pantry room.
No more than 2 shoppers are allowed in the pantry at one time.
No more than one new shopper is allowed in the pantry at one time.
Shop for a three-day supply of food for everyone in your household.
Place your selections on the table as you shop.
Respect the restrictions on certain foods.
Finish your shopping in 10 minutes.
Once you begin to bag your groceries, do not continue to shop.
Because the food availability is different each time you shop, it is best to visit the food pantry weekly.
P.S. The rules may be different at the pantry where you shop. Each food pantry is different. The space is different. The times the pantry is open is different. The management is different.
These specific rules were used in the food pantry I managed where the people were many, the space small, and the hours few.
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December 21st is the Winter Solstice for 2020.
The Winter Solstice is the annual celebration of the yearly rebirth of the sun.
Please take a few moments today to send healing, acceptance, regeneration, and rebirth to all living beings – both plant and animal.
Visualize a world in which all living beings have enough food and water to nourish themselves into wellness in 2021.
Take a moment to release those things which no longer positively serve our planet and its inhabitants.
Find a few minutes sometime today to reflect on our planetary needs. Reflect on how it will feel to live on a healthy planet where all beings experience wellness and coexist to honor and support one another.
Thank you for your healing thoughts and prayers.
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I got excited!
A letter from the Capital City Rescue Mission sent me a thank you note! Just 2 weeks ago, they sent me an appeal letter, complete with return envelope.
And, today, I got a letter from Covenant House.
So what, you say.
Well, so that. That’s what!
When I managed the local food pantry here in Woodstock, I sent out appeal letters every year to a few thousand people. I never, ever, saw an appeal letter from another food pantry or soup kitchen or halfway house.
My letters weren’t nearly so nice as the ones I got from the Capital City Rescue Mission or Covenant House.
The pantry appeal letters were hand addressed, printed on a copy machine and hand folded.
Our return address on the envelopes appeared compliments of a volunteer hand-stamping each one individually. A volunteer got the return address stamp at the Catskill Art and Office for less than $25.
Our mailers went out each year reeking of poverty. No professional letterhead. No nice paper. They were just an appeal from a group of people who needed to keep going from day-to-day.
But, they worked. Those letters and the follow-up thank-you notes brought in enough money to meet our needs. We always had enough for gas and sandwiches for the staff on the monthly food pantry stocking day.
When Guy dented the fender in his car in our parking lot, we had the money for repairs.
When we showed up in the food pantry one day to distribute food, there were no working lights in the basement of the church.
I never quite figured out what happened. But this I do know: Richard Spool arrived in just a few minutes and dealt with the problem. We had enough $$$ to get all the parts we needed at Houst.
And, this I do know: The hungry people were fed, the lights were fixed, Richard saved the day, and the account still had a few dollars left.
But, now, back to the story.
Well, today I did. The appeal mailer came in about 2 weeks ago and I quickly sent a check and a copy of my book (for encouragement).
Today I got a thank-you with another self-addressed envelope from the Capital City Rescue Mission. (I think I’ll send another copy of my book for them to share. ) I’m going to send along another check. I’m anxious to see how this plays out.
Meanwhile, if you are a food pantry, soup kitchen, halfway house and need money, you can learn all my secrets starting on page 196 of my book, “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”. I held nothing back. If you read this information, you’ll have the recipe for fundraising success.
In my heart, I want every pantry, soup kitchen, and halfway house to be rich enough to feed everyone who needs the food. I want the food to be top quality – the best.
And, I want every pantry to have enough $$$ to fix the cars and trucks and the lights in the building.
I learned these secrets at Rowe in Vermont when Kim Kline gave her annual talk.
If you feel you can’t take my word for all this success, get Kim Kline’s books and read them. Or, better yet, attend one of her weekends (when the pandemic is over).
Remember, in our country, there is no excuse for anyone to go hungry.
If you’re reading this post and you don’t work for a pantry or soup kitchen, you don’t have to wait for a mailer. All you have to do is contact a food pantry and make a donation.
You don’t have to send a check. If you want, you can hold a food drive and then haul over all the food you gathered. The important thing is that there are many ways to support those who feed the hungry.
And, lately, there are more and more hungry people than we ever thought possible. Your help and support will be appreciated.
Thank you for your generosity and thank you for reading this article.
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