‘Helping Neighbors’ Passes Major Milestone, But Campaign Continues For Family Pantry Of Cape Cod

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Hunger

Volunteers from Bank of America help sort donated food and restock the shelves of the Family Pantry last week. ERIC FEHRNSTROM PHOTO

If you needed any proof of the power of generosity, here's some: In the 15-year history of The Chronicle's annual Helping Neighbors, our readers have contributed more than $1 million dollars to the Family Pantry of Cape Cod. The milestone was reached last week.

“That's a pretty breathtaking achievement,” Cape Cod Chronicle Publisher Henry C. Hyora said. “And it's all because of the generosity of our readers.” While a million-dollar donation is far beyond the means of a small business like The Chronicle, it’s within reach when a community comes together over time to support a worthwhile cause, he said.

Though the campaign has passed its $1 million lifetime milestone, lots of work remains to meet this season’s $50,000 goal. Thanks to the Family Pantry’s low overhead and the fact that volunteers comprise almost the entire workforce, every dollar donated provides four healthy meals for local families.

And now is the ideal time to contribute, Pantry Executive Director Christine Menard said. An anonymous Cape Cod resident has offered a dollar-for-dollar match for the next $5,000 in donations, and Menard said she hopes that inspires more people to give.

The Family Pantry is on track to serve 10,000 clients this year, a record high number. Meeting that demand for high-quality food—some 40,000 pounds of it each week—means a constant need for financial support from the community. And 30 percent of all donations come in November and December.

“This is an important time of year,” Menard said.

While most Family Pantry clients get their groceries by visiting the headquarters in North Harwich, the Pantry also has two outreach programs. The first is “Healthy Foods to Go,” a mobile pantry that delivers groceries to several communities by van. The program aims to help senior citizens who have trouble traveling to the Pantry and works in conjunction with the Chatham Council on Aging. In Chatham, it also collaborates with Monomoy Community Services to help families with young children.

The number of new clients using the mobile pantry is up 23 percent this year, with programs in Chatham, Eastham, Provincetown and Brewster. On average, the van serves between 38 and 40 clients per visit, “but there’s still some capacity there,” Menard said. The program can serve as many as 60 clients per visit with the current vehicle.

The other outreach program targets another needy population: college kids. The Family Pantry’s satellite operation at Cape Cod Community College provides healthy foods for young people who are studying to prepare for higher-paying jobs in the future, but who are financially struggling now. Menard said about 36 percent of students at the college are in need of help, and a number of staff and faculty members also take advantage of the program.

“That location is going crazy,” she said. In September, the Cape Cod Community College Pantry saw a 200 percent increase in visits, and October saw a 176 percent boost. Part of the reason is better outreach; over the summer, Family Pantry officials met with the dean of student affairs and now information about the Pantry is included in the regular student and staff orientation programs. Often professors are in a good position to refer students to get help. “They’re the first line of defense,” Menard said. While ordinary Family Pantry clients provide their financial information to obtain help, students at the community college only need to show their school ID to obtain help.

Even as donations are coming in to the Helping Neighbors campaign, bidding is starting to pick up in The Chronicle’s annual Cover Art Auction. Framed original paintings created by local artists Bill Lutz and Kassie Foss are up for bids, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Family Pantry. The works, donated by the artists, are featured on The Cape Cod Chronicle’s two gift guides. Find out more at www.CapeCodChronicle.com/info/auction.

To make your contribution through the Helping Neighbors campaign, click here, 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). Donors can also text “Hunger” to 80100 to give $20, or text “Pantry” to 80100 to give $10. To learn about other ways to help, or to find out how to receive assistance, call 508 432-6519 or visit www.TheFamilyPantry.com.

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