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
Writing this blog post was risky. In the early days I worried about peoples’ opinions. I wrote my first blog entries with skeptics in mind. On some level it was important to me for pantry deniers to understand that there are, indeed, hungry people around us
One day I saw clearly that some people aren’t going to like me or my work. Nor are they going to believe what I write, no matter what I say. Once I realized that truth, I knew I’d been wasting energy on other people’s opinions.
I’m no longer interested in convincing anyone about what it means to go to bed hungry.
I’m okay with people saying anything about me because I know the chapters I write are true. The words I write make a difference in peoples’ lives.
This blog is about people creating better lives for themselves while not having enough to eat and lacking proper healthcare, housing.
This blog is about healing and creating new opportunities in one’s life. This blog is about people changing their lives – against all odds.
While I tell this story, I know some people won’t believe a word. It’s okay. I have my story and they have their story.
Food and sex and money are three words and issues more concerned with a person’s core beliefs, emotions, and spiritual attitudes than anything else.
These three words offer rules for everyone. We each have core beliefs around them with opinions about what is okay and what isn’t okay. We have attitudes about food, sex, and money based on what we were taught by family members and peers when we were children. We live our lives based on those experiences. Reduced to their lowest common denominator, these words – food, sex, and money – are the same. They touch core beliefs in ways going straight to the heart and soul.
The food pantry was all about food and money. The sex part was limited, but still there. Sex happened in the pantry hallway line when a shopper suffering with mental illness, a handsome young man who lived in another world, masturbated in the food line.
Our attitudes, opinions, feelings about feeding hungry people are or are not based on facts, statistics, or reality. Nor will facts, statistics, information, change attitudes.
Finally, we all have beliefs about who it’s okay to feed and who it’s not okay to feed. My beliefs are based on life experiences, facts, statistics. Their beliefs are based on the same. I may have taken classes, gone to therapy. And, they may have also.
Their reality about what is okay and my reality about what is okay differ.
In the food pantry hallway, we all looked at the same people and saw different things. This situation is proof positive we each create our own reality about hungry people. Nothing changes either reality. We each see hungry people through lenses shaped by separate life experiences. Hungry people don’t live in two realities.
As the lines got longer, we looked at people in the line. I saw hungry people and they didn’t. I interacted with people weekly who dumpster-dived to feed themselves as well as their children, parents, housemates. Occasionally I read articles about the ethics of dumpster diving. I didn’t think we could explore the ethics of allowing people go hungry because they couldn’t make enough money at their jobs to buy the food they needed to live and work.
People coming to a food pantry can take a three-day-supply of food home each week. The other four days, they’re on their own. That means they can buy more food if they have a SNAP card and if they can get to a store selling food. If they don’t have the money or a SNAP card, they get creative or go hungry. This involves panhandleing, borrowing money or food from friends, relatives, neighbors. They can steal, dumpster-dive, drop in at someone’s house at mealtime, and skip meals.
“Thurman is out of control over at the food pantry” described the local vicar because of the number of people shopping at the pantry and the amount of food they took home.
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