Helping Neighbors Campaign Raises $85K, Surpassing Goal

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

A pair of jolly holiday volunteers help out at the Family Pantry.

We're finally at the end of 2020, a year that has been challenging at best. Despite a pandemic and all of the complications that came with it, the Helping Neighbors Campaign hasn't merely met its goal to raise $65,000 for hungry individuals and families on Cape Cod. It sailed on past it and raised an incredible $85,010 and still counting.

With so many in our community experiencing job loss, housing insecurity and reduced income associated with COVID-19, The Cape Cod Chronicle asked readers to dig especially deep in this time of increased need, and you did so beyond expectation.

“Community members have been extremely generous during this season, as they were during our summer campaign,” said Chronicle Publisher Henry C. Hyora. “It really shows how much people care about their neighbors and want to help those hardest hit by this pandemic.”

Family Pantry Executive Director Christine Menard is psyched about the spirit of giving displayed this year by Helping Neighbors donors, yet she is also aware that at this time of year, things may be tougher than usual for many in our community. With at least one week of interruption expected in unemployment benefits for many of our neighbors who are suffering from job loss and reduced income, Menard emphasizes the importance of the Pantry. She extends a welcome to anyone and everyone who may need a helping hand to put nourishing food on the table.

“The stimulus bill was just passed, so that will help a bit. We won't get clobbered, which is good news,” Menard said. “If you know someone who may need the Pantry, please let them know that no documentation is required. You can pick up food on the very first day, and you are welcome to come back every 14 days afterwards. Everyone is welcome.”

All service at the Family Pantry is curbside, with all CDC protocols being followed to the finest detail.

“We have electrostatic foggers and ultraviolet light, everyone wears masks and gloves, and we have professional cleaners sanitizing the building six times every week. We even took out the carpet and had wood floors put in to make it easier to wash the floors,” Menard said. “We are locked down, with only staff and volunteers allowed to enter. We rented a trailer to use as an office from Eagle Leasing with a window, so you never have to leave your car. You will be given a shopping list to fill out in your car. Then while you wait we go in with your list and shop for you. Then we roll the order out to you.”

The only information required to receive healthy food from the Pantry is your name, address, phone number and the number of people in your household, because the amount of food you receive will depend on the size of the family. A family of four will leave the Pantry with eight to nine brown bags full of groceries. At least 35 percent will be fresh produce, along with quality meats, dairy, fish and more. The Pantry is bright, welcoming and friendly, and physical interaction is kept to an absolute minimum to keep clients and volunteers safe and healthy.

Menard explained that a lot of people who aren't familiar with the Family Pantry may have an outdated idea that the food you can expect to receive will include a lot of what she calls “belly fillers,” sugary, high carb, fatty foods. This is not the case at all. When you come to the Family Pantry you can expect a choice of 25 or 26 different fresh produce items, as well as six to eight different proteins including local seafood. Haddock chowder from the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance is a big hit, as are fresh homemade fish cakes from George's Fish Market in Harwich, donated every two weeks to give local individuals and families in need a taste of home with a personal, local touch.

“We focus on nutritional value, not on 'belly fillers,'” Menard said.

Have you experienced job loss or a reduction in income? Do you need a little bit of help putting a hot, healthy meal on the table for yourself and your loved ones? Is your neighbor, coworker or friend in need of a little help? Encourage them to visit the Family Pantry. Any challenge seems a bit less daunting when it is approached after a nourishing meal. Everyone is invited to the Family Pantry, and everyone is welcome.

Although the Helping Neighbors campaign ends with the beginning of the new year, the Pantry is in need of donations year round. To make a contribution, send a tax-deductible donation to The Family Pantry, 133 Queen Anne Rd., Harwich, MA 02645. Donors may also call 508-432-6519 to make a donation or visit TheFamilyPantry.com.