March 28, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – This week the pantry broke a record.  I wasn’t there, and Benny and I won’t be there for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic, but strong and capable hands have taken the reins and the pantry marches on.  This past Wednesday in the morning we served 62 families, including 118 adults, 92 children and 27 seniors.  Then in the evening another 9 families were served, including 18 adults, 10 children and 2 more seniors.  This brought us to a total of 71 families, 136 adults, 102 children and 29 seniors, making a total of 267 people served.  During the month of March we averaged 53 families and 198 people a week.  In February, before all this started, we averaged 40 families and 147 people served.

          Due to the generous contributions of people on this list and people in the community, and also due to the ongoing commitment of Spring Community Partners, this past Wednesday we were able to give out a Stop & Shop gift card to each client, along with a bag of produce from Feeding Westchester.  We registered seven new clients in March.  Let’s see how it goes in April.
          This Monday we’ll be receiving 80 pre-packaged boxes of food, free of charge, from Feeding Westchester.  They’ve obviously been the recipient of much generosity also, to be able to provide many pantries with boxes of free food.  Maybe it can happen again in April.
          So, this week our clients will receive a Stop & Shop gift card and a box of food.  We’re taking this week by week, so we have a definite plan for this coming Wednesday.  We’ll see where we go from there.
          In Friday’s Enterprise there was an entire article about our food pantry, together with an article about the Hastings food pantry.  The Enterprise provides a great service to the Rivertowns.  Although we’ve been open for several years, some people still haven’t known about us, so we’ll see if a number of people come to the pantry this Wednesday because they didn’t know about us before.  I also predict that people who have been laid off will find themselves looking for a food pantry for the first time ever.
          The volunteers at the pantry have developed a routine for providing space between each other and space between the clients.  Two volunteers stayed outside with the clients and made sure they stayed six feet apart.  Then there’s a table between the volunteers and the clients, so they can pick up their gift card and food without anybody touching hands.  The table is wiped with a sanitary wipe between clients.  No masks, unfortunately, but with gloves and plenty of hand-washing, it seems to be working out.
          Anybody out there have masks for us?
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March 19, 2020

Good evening, everybody – yesterday we served a record 59 families, including 108 adults, 82 children and 27 seniors, for a total of 217 people served.

          What a whirlwind it’s been since the Corona virus moved in.  We haven’t been sure how to manage the pantry or whether to open at all.  I was on a conference call with Feeding Westchester and it seems several pantries have closed up for the time being.  We were open but, for the first time ever, we gave out bags of food.  South Church is closed, so there was no possibility of having people congregate in the sanctuary to await their turn in the pantry.  Giving bags of food made it quicker for the clients to get their food and go, plus it was easier for the volunteers and clients to maintain distance from each other.
          Nevertheless, we did serve 59 different families.  We wore gloves and kept our distance and we urged the clients to maintain six feet of distance between themselves.  Some of the pantries on the conference call have been giving supermarket gift cards instead of food.  This would make it even faster for the clients to come and go, and would require fewer volunteers.
          On the other hand, if more people are unemployed, more people will need food.  We signed up several new families yesterday.  We’re still debating among ourselves how to handle the pantry-virus issue going forward.
          For now, I believe we’ll be giving out bags of food next Wednesday because we’re already scheduled to receive a big delivery of produce from Feeding Westchester the day before.  It’s not easy to change course so quickly.  After Wednesday, we’ll see what direction we take.
          In the meantime, Mayor Rosillo has been mentioning the pantry in his newsletter, and people have been amazingly kind.  They’ve donated food, bags, diapers – everything.  Today we received two gallon containers of oil from Maurice Giliberti of Sam’s Restaurant.  How generous is that!!
          And people have been visiting our website and making cash donations through PayPal.  If we start giving out gift cards we’ll need all that cash, so this is a huge thank-you to everyone who has donated or will donate to us at this time of need.
          I hope everybody stays safe and maintains social distance.  This is a very tough time emotionally for everybody.
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March 12, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – yesterday, despite the pandemic, we served 43 families, including 80 adults, 62 children and 22 seniors, for a total of 163 people served.

          At the start of the pantry every week our clients gather in the church sanctuary and choose numbers to see who goes first, second, etc.  This week we encouraged them to sit farther apart from each other, don’t hug or kiss, wash their hands and resist touching their faces.  By and large our clients cooperated, but we’re still debating how to run the pantry during the course of this virus.  Feeding Westchester suggests that we give food out in bags, the old-fashioned way, which would avoid having people hang out in the sanctuary.  This coming Wednesday, I think what we’ll do is again encourage people to sit apart from each other, but we’ll discuss with them what they would like to have in the bags.  Then we’ll go from there.  We have no idea where we’ll get our hands on a huge number of paper bags.  Each person would probably take home two or three bags.
          A woman by the name of Alisa Fasman called me today from the  Dobbs Ferry Village Administration to discuss how the pantry could help if many people are quarantined.  This envisions our serving many more people, if only for a few weeks, and actually delivering the food to the people.  I’m sure  people who can afford it would order food through PeaPod or Fresh Direct, but if people can’t afford that it may fall to us to deliver food from the pantry. It’s a fluid situation and may not even come to pass, but we pantry volunteers will do our best to help in any way we can.  I’m sure under those circumstances many more people in the Village would be ready to help out also.
          The pantry also serves Ardsley, Irvington and Greenburgh as well.  The particular concern for the pantry is if schools must close for an extended period of time.  This would deprive the children who qualify for a free or reduced-fee lunch of a nourishing meal.   I’ve been talking to Robin Larkins of Spring Community Partners about what to do if the Dobbs Ferry schools close.  Once again, we’re not sure how we’d handle it, but it seems clear that if any of these schools must close, we would find ourselves serving families who have never come to the pantry before, as well as our own established clients.  We’ll figure it out, and we’ll count on the support from the people on this list, who always come through in a time of need.

 

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March 4, 2020

Good evening, everybody – this morning we served 40 families, including 70 adults, 53 children and 21 seniors, for a total of 144 people.  21 seniors is the most we’ve ever served.  We’d like to bring the number even higher.

          We’ve been contacted by a social work intern at Ardsley High School, telling us about a Wellness Fair to take place at the high school next week.  Benny and Tricia will represent the pantry that day so that more people, including students and staff, can learn about the pantry.  Tricia already has some ideas about an interactive game and other ways to attract people to our table.  We’re so happy to have this contact with the Ardsley schools.
          A woman visited us during the pantry today from an organization by the name of Kids Cookery.  They’ve been around for ten years!  They offer cooking classes for kids, helping them learn not to waste food.  They offer classes in schools, and also teach the kids to cook during birthday parties and other celebrations.  She gave a check to the pantry from funds donated by the kids.  So glad to know she’s there.  The website is www.lovekidscookery.com.
          We received another donation of diapers from Dr. Nitin Gupta of Rivertowns Pediatrics.  He’s the kindest, most loving person.  So glad he chose to establish his practice here in the Rivertowns.
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February 27, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – yesterday in the morning we served 35 families, including 67 adults, 45 children and 18 seniors.  Then, since it was the last Wednesday of the month, we were open again in the evening and served another 10 families with 19 adults and 17 children.  In total, we served 166 people yesterday.   During the month of February we averaged 40 families a week and 147 people served.

          The Wednesday before Easter we’ll be giving out $25 Stop & Shop gift cards, like we do at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Some pantries give traditional meats like turkey, but we prefer to make it possible for the clients to buy whatever they want, so that they can celebrate however they want to.  We serve many different cultural groups, and not everybody celebrates the same way.
          Another expense coming up for us is our annual purchase of two shares from the CSA (community-supported agriculture) so that our clients can have fresh, organic produce throughout the spring, summer and fall.  Last year we bought two shares from Fable Farm, located in Ossining, and Tom, the farmer, then donated two more shares to us.  That way every week we had enough for all our clients.
          When we started the pantry back in 2013 we could only offer canned fruits and vegetables.  But at this point our clients are accustomed to fresh produce for their families, and we’re glad to be able to offer it every week. Throughout the winter we received fresh produce once a month from Feeding Westchester, and the other weeks we purchased produce from Stop & Shop, so that we could offer something fresh every week.
          But this comes at a cost.  It would make a big difference if everyone on this list could make a monetary donation to us, either by sending us a check made out to the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry and mailing it to South Presbyterian Church at 343 Broadway in Dobbs Ferry, or by using the Pay Pal feature on our website,  www.dobbsferrypantry.org.  Every penny will be spent on food for our clients.
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February 19, 2020

Good evening, everybody – today we served 37 families, including 68 adults, 43 children and 19 seniors, for a total of 130 people served.

          The leader of a group of Daisy Girl Scouts contacted me and said they were going to have a yoga event and would like to find a way to help the pantry at the same time.  She asked if I could recommend one specific product that each scout could provide.  I asked for dried black beans.  Just about every one of our clients looks for dried black beans.  They prefer them to canned beans because a bag of dried beans will serve more people than canned beans.  Today she arrived, carrying a tote bag full of dried beans, most of which were black.  They went like hotcakes.  What a great idea she had.  Right now we’re overloaded with pasta and macaroni and cheese, but we never have enough dried black beans.  We’ll send them a thank-you letter and maybe they’ll schedule another event at which they can collect more beans for us.
          Our artist, Stephanie Buck, has been coming every week to encourage our clients to express themselves through art for over a year now.  Nobody has to participate, but many do, and quite a few come to the art room regularly.  Today’s theme was “what word would describe what your family is experiencing now?”  The clients drew or created art projects based on that theme.  Last week the artists collaborated on a huge heart on which they placed valentines for us pantry volunteers.  Stephanie says that the clients became enthused and energetic as they found a way to show their thanks to us at the pantry for providing food for them each week.  We volunteers were surprised and touched by the feelings expressed on that valentine.
          By the way, Stephanie has arranged for an art exhibit of the clients’ art to be displayed at the Donald Gallery at South Church throughout the summer, from late June to early September.  She’ll include that huge valentine as one of the exhibits.  People on this list can come at any point over the summer and admire the clients’ work.
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February 13, 2020

Good evening, everybody – yesterday we served 41 families with 83 adults, 49 children and 19 seniors for a total of 151 people served.

          The food pantry has been well-served the last couple of years by a CSA (community-supported agriculture) during the spring, summer and fall.  We pay for two shares and the farmer donates two shares, and we have plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to offer our clients throughout the growing season.  This is augmented by Roots & Wings’s garden behind South Church, which allocates a section of the garden to vegetables for the pantry as well.  Our clients have plenty of fresh, organic produce all season long, and they love it.  This summer we’re hoping to have the same benefit for our clients, but it won’t happen unless enough families sign up for a share of the CSA, which is delivered every Sunday morning at around 8:30 or 9:00 in the South Church parking lot.  I’m hoping that people on this list will sign up (or have signed up) for the CSA this growing season.  If you need more information you can visit the Roots and Wings website – rivertownscommunitygardens.com.  That website will give you all you need.
          The South Church Teen Benefit this past Saturday was a smashing success.  Hopefully they’ll do it again next year, so come next year if you weren’t there this year.  They are amazingly talented, and they raised thousands of dollars to send to an animal refuge in Australia which had burned to the ground.
          A woman contacted me who needed help from the pantry.  She wanted to come on Wednesday morning but she was ashamed.  She was afraid she’d see somebody she knew who’d then realize that she was struggling financially.  I encouraged her to come but she hasn’t arrived.  If anybody on this list knows somebody who’s in financial straits but wants to continue to live in the Rivertowns, encourage them to come to the pantry.  We can at least help with a little food.  I hate to think that shame will stop somebody who needs what we have to offer.  I think the dread of being seen and judged will melt away once you get here and we make you feel welcome.
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February 5, 2020

Good evening, everybody – today we served 37 families, including 74 adults, 51 children and 16 seniors.  We served 141 people today.  I’m glad the number of seniors coming to the pantry is increasing.  If anybody knows a senior who is in need of food, talk to the person about us, or let me know.  I’m sure there are senior citizens out there who are struggling to pay the bills and remain in their homes but there’s a shame factor in having to come to a pantry.  It may help if they at least know we’re here.

          The Dobbs Ferry High School football team did another pre-Super Bowl food drive for us at Stop & Shop this past Saturday, and they were as successful as they have been in other years.  The team has done a drive for us on the Saturday before Super Bowl for a couple of years now, and it’s always fantastically successful.  This year they outdid themselves.  I posted a picture on Facebook and Instagram of the room upstairs in the church, filled with bags of food and other products.  There wasn’t an inch of space on the floor – and they did it in about four hours! A team of our volunteers worked very hard this morning arranging everything, and the room is organized now.  I’ll try to take another picture to show everything they collected for us, neatly stacked and shelved.  Thanks to volunteers Tom, Duke and Marc.
          We also received food and diapers from the Rotaract Club at Mercy College.  They collected food for us over the holidays and brought it over this past Tuesday, together with Tim, the President of the Rivertowns Rotary Club.  Rotarians in general are generous, caring people.
          The Garden Club of Dobbs Ferry has been collecting food for us every month at their meeting.  They’ll be dropping some food off to us this week.  Thanks to Mary Fennell Gerber for organizing this effort for us.
          We appreciate every morsel of food, diapers, cleaning supplies, etc., etc. that people drop off to us, as long as it hasn’t expired.  Everything people donate to us goes to hungry families.  And, by the way, we appreciate monetary donations as well, by check or through the PayPal function on our website (www.dobbsferrypantry.org).  We take that money and use it to buy whatever we’re low on.
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January 23, 2020

Good morning, everybody – yesterday we served a total of 40 families, including 75 adults, 56 children and 17 seniors.  We served 149 people yesterday.

          At 7:00 on Saturday, February 8 at South Church there will be a performance by Rivertowns teens like we had the last couple of years.  Last year proceeds went to teen service projects, and in 2018 the proceeds went to Puerto Rico disaster relief.  This year it will be sent to Australia.  First there’s a delicious dinner created by Peter Brenner, Eric Greenberg and Alex Orlowski, then performances by the most talented teens in the area.  It’s amazing what these kids can do – and they’re only kids!  If anybody on this list wants to sign up, go to www.southpres.org and follow the prompts.  It’s $35 for adults, $10 for teens.
          Several months ago we received a donation from a little girl who chose to have guests at her birthday party contribute to the pantry instead of bringing gifts.  As if that wasn’t enough, her father’s company now sent us a matching amount, which means the pantry was helped twice by this family.  There’s generosity all around, which is why we’re able to keep providing food to our hungry clients.
          We still continue automatically receiving diapers every month from a young mother who has arranged to have Amazon deliver them to us.  She does it because she’s a mother herself and she understands how expensive diapers are.  We’ve also received many diapers from Dr. Nitin Gupta of Rivertowns Pediatrics, who also knows how hard it is to keep a baby in diapers.  Once again, there’s generosity all around.  If anybody on this list would like to donate diapers to us, sizes 4, 5 and 6 are the ones most in demand, and no matter how many we receive, we can always use more.  They fly off the shelves.
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January 15, 2020

Good evening, everybody – This morning we served a total of 39 families, including 76 adults, 51 children and 19 seniors, for a total of 145 people served.

          Just this week we’ve received donations of food from the Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church, Zion Episcopal Church, Ardsley Methodist Church and the Community Nursery School.  Even after the holidays, they’re thinking of us.  And we received a financial donation from an organization new to us by the name of Home Helpers of Westchester.  Even though we’ve been open for several years, people and organizations are still learning about us and offering a helping hand; and others, like the ones mentioned above, have helped us for years and years.  We’re eternally grateful for the reliable contributions, both financial and edible.
          This past weekend Benny and I attended brunch at the Dobbs Ferry Woman’s Club, and an eggnog party at the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society.  Both organizations are important to Dobbs Ferry, and we’re glad they’re there.
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