Holidays Are The Time For 'Helping Neighbors'

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Hunger

Family Pantry volunteer Tim Malarky shows off one of the hundreds of frozen turkeys being distributed to clients this week in time for Thanksgiving.  ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

For most people on the Cape, summertime is the busy season. But each winter, thousands of Cape residents seek help from The Family Pantry of Cape Cod. That’s the time when families often have the toughest time making ends meet. And the extra expenses of the holiday season only make things worse.

To help meet the holiday and year-round needs of this often overlooked population, the Cape Cod Chronicle is lending the Pantry its support through the 13th annual “Helping Neighbors ” campaign to help fund the services of the Family Pantry. This year’s goal is to raise $60,000 to help the needy families that come from all over the Cape.

The numbers tell an alarming story. In 2015, the Family Pantry saw 843 new clients, bringing its caseload to 8,949 people. But as of the end of last month, there were already 1,900 new clients this year – more than double last year's total – with more coming every day, Executive Director Christine Menard said. Many of them are service workers.

“That's going to continue. This is a new norm,” she said.

Though there are many food pantries on Cape Cod, the Family Pantry serves clients from any town, allowing visits every three weeks. The Pantry offers clients a choice of groceries so they can select healthy items that their families will enjoy, including frozen meats, cheese, eggs, fresh produce and canned and packaged food items.

The assistance isn't limited to food. Clients can also browse a selection of donated clothing and get access to various other resources, from the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) to heating assistance. Using an army of well-trained volunteers, the Family Pantry strives to treat every client with respect and confidentiality.

With revenues from various sources, including its upscale boutique, Second Glance, the Family Pantry is increasingly making itself financially sustainable, Menard said. That means that, regardless of political changes that might affect grant funding, the Pantry's doors will remain open to help Cape Codders in need.

The organization has been innovative, too. In addition to creating a large garden to provide clients with fresh produce, the Family Pantry recently launched “Healthy Meals in Motion,” a mobile operation that delivers groceries to select local senior centers.

Through the holiday season, The Chronicle will publish stories about the organization, the volunteers and the families who rely on the Family Pantry for help making ends meet.

The winter holiday season is especially challenging for the Family Pantry because donations are at their lowest point, as area residents deal with their own increased winter and holiday expenses. At the same time, costs are higher as the Pantry tries to help those in need enjoy a holiday too.

In order to ensure that all clients share in the holiday celebration, turkey baskets are available for every household at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holiday toy program also costs money to ensure no child goes without a gift at this season of giving.

Cape Cod Chronicle publisher Henry C. Hyora made a $1,000 contribution to the Pantry to get the ball rolling for this year's fund drive. In addition, he called on the newspaper’s subscribers to join him by donating $7.50 each to the effort.

“It’s a pretty painless way to make a big difference in the lives of our neighbors here in Chatham, Harwich and Orleans, as well as on the rest of the Cape,” he said.

Names of donors, except those who wish to remain anonymous, will be printed in the paper each week. Donate now, or send a tax-deductible donation to The Family Pantry, 133 Queen Anne Rd., Harwich, MA 02645 (please write “Helping Neighbors” in the memo line), or call 508 432-6519 to learn about other ways to help.

Helping Neighbors Donations
Week One

Steve and Donna DeBoer $50.00
The Stoker Family $100.00
Paula Larkin and Daniel Mosca $200.00
Jamie and Martha Higgins $100.00
Greater Cape Cod Real Estate $50.00
Ellen Chahey and Ed Maroney $30.00
The Meehan Family $25.00
Jean Dana $25.00
Karin Larson $25.00
Anonymous $100.00
John Morio and Lisa Ball $50.00
Joe and Irene Linehan $25.00
Anonymous $20.00
Edward and Nancy O'Neil $20.00
Anonymous $25.00
Faith Twombly $25.00
Anonymous $50.00
Jim, Tina and Peter Conley, In Memory of Peg Falconer $150.00
The Cape Cod Chronicle $1,000.00