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
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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Miracles happened in the food pantry. It took me a while to realize this and then it took another while to accept that such a thing could happen in the basement of a small town church in Upstate New York.
I sneaked miracle stories in on the blog posts. I sneaked them on the pages of “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”. Finally, I gave them their own pages – as much as I had the nerve for anyway, in a short book “Miracles”.
Research on miracles taught me some things.
I learned that miracles often include weeping statues, broken legs healing straight, relics, stigmata, and visions. The pantry miracles included none of those things.
Our miracles never really cured anyone. I never saw a statue weep, and no one came down with stigmata.
Instead, they showed us all how to grow and love and forgive. It was giving away the food that was the tip off for me.
As far as I can tell, the food pantry miracles were not the result of prayer.
God just showed up and brought food. Once he came disguised as a fireman. Each miracle was a complete surprise, a unique and different event. God came when the pantry shelves were bare and the lines were long.
I don’t think the miracles proved that any of the shoppers or volunteers were more faithful than anybody else in town. Frankly, I think that some of us saw the miracles as coincidences or something.
However they were seen, these events made an impact on a small number of people who saw them as they happened.
The clincher for me occurred when I finally realized and accepted a few basic things:
Carloads of food never showed up when we didn’t need it.
Boots never appeared on the shelves disguised as toothpaste in the summertime.
Nobody ever brought a handful of nails to fix the barn when the wall wasn’t falling.
Two books appeared on my desk out of the ethers: “Miracles” by Tim Stafford and “Looking for a Miracle” by Joe Nickell gave a feeling of legitimacy to my thoughts and memories.
Because of Tim Stafford, I wrote my book entitled “Miracles”. He was direct about a few things – one of them being that people should not spread “miracle gossip”. Because of his feelings about what he called “miracle gossip”, I’m compelled to relate the pantry miracle stories.
To sneak them in blog posts does not do them justice.
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