May 6, 2021

Hello!  I’m Gretchen and I’m the new Co-Director of the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry, alongside Vera Halpenny.  I have been volunteering at the Pantry since about June 2020 and am excited to be taking on this new role.

Due to rain and being the first week of the month, we had a slower day yesterday than the previous record-breaking week.  We served 129 families which represented 468 individuals.  In addition to the usual box of canned and shelf-stable items and a bag of fresh produce, our clients were treated to a variety of dairy and vegan items donated by MOM’s Organic Market, the newest grocery store in Dobbs, as well as delicious meals from Pete’s Saloon of Elmsford.  John Fuffi and his Trivia Night team generously donated their winnings for Pete’s to cook meals for the pantry.  John and Pete’s Saloon owner, Anthony Bartolotta, delivered the meals early Wednesday morning, rain and all.

We would like to thank Micah Spellman and the residents of The Landing for their generous fundraising efforts.  They were able to raise enough money for the Pantry to purchase 50 much needed shopping carts for our clients.  Many of our clients are either elderly, take public transportation or have small children, which can make it difficult for them to carry all of the items we have for them.  We saw a need for rolling shopping carts that we could give to those clients to help them get their groceries home and Micah and his neighbors generously filled that need!  Thank you!

We are excited to be benefiting from an on-going relationship between SPRING Community Partners and The Sharing Shelf.  The Sharing Shelf provides clothing to children in need throughout Westchester Country.  Over the last few weeks, in collaboration with SPRING, we have been taking surveys of our families with children 18 and younger.  Each child will be receiving seven days worth of outfits, from head to toe!  So far we have almost 100 children signed up.  The children are able to give The Sharing Shelf details such as their favorite colors and preferred clothing styles.  We are expecting to be able to work with SPRING to distribute the clothing before the end of this month.   We are also working on a collaborative way to work with SPRING to collect clothing donations, as well.  Stay tuned!

We are making great progress on our move out of the church’s sanctuary and into Fellowship Hall, now that the church will soon resume indoor services.  Our wonderful volunteers Duke Coffey, Suzanna Halatyn, and Suzy Barnett have worked long hours to assemble shelving and clear out the pews of our inventory.  We hope to be completely moved to our new area in the next week or two.

And finally we are so grateful to Dr. Nitin Gupta of Dobbs Ferry, Founder of Rivertowns Pediatrics and a member of South Presbyterian Church, who will be providing vaccines to our clients at next week’s Pantry.  Dr. Gupta approached us with this incredible offer recently and we immediately started signing up clients and their families.  We will have Spanish translators on hand to help answer questions and interpret instructions.

Items most needed this week: size 6 diapers, baby wipes, adult diapers, canned diced tomatoes and tuna.

Have a wonderful week, all!

Gretchen

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Me flanked by co-directors Gretchen Skaggs(L), Vera Halpenny(R)

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May 4, 2021

This will be my final entry on this blog.  It will be continued by various younger and more tech-savvy volunteers, who will keep you posted about what’s going on at the Pantry.  The Pantry and the blog will be in excellent hands.  Several of our volunteers are excellent writers.


This past Wednesday in the morning we served 159 families, including 306 adults, 203 children and 56 seniors, totaling 565 people.  Then in the evening we served 16 more families with 35 adults, 18 children and 5 seniors, for a total of 58 people.  This brought us to 175 families (a record), 341 adults, 221 children and 61 seniors.  We served 623 people on Wednesday and made 48 deliveries.  For the month of April we averaged 141 families a week and 511 people.  A year ago, in April 2020 (we were already submerged in the pandemic) we averaged 86 families and 326 people per week.  Look how our population of needy families has grown!


Since last Wednesday was my final day (and evening) at the pantry, we had a party.  Speeches were made, hugs were given (we’ve been vaccinated!) and we ate some delicious muffins provided by Renee Kashuba (www.foodmadebyrk.com).  You should taste her zesty cheese muffins!


And yesterday I was interviewed by Jeff Wilson from the Enterprise. He’ll be interviewing Vera and Gretchen also, so watch the Enterprise for a story on the pantry.


Last night Benny and I saw David Janeway and his group perform at Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack.  I’m sure everyone on this list attended the virtual concert he and several other musicians performed free of charge at Jazz Forum Arts back in January for the benefit of the Pantry.  The musicians, including Mark Morganelli, co-owner (with his wife, Ellen Prior) of Jazz Forum Arts, gave a stellar performance and just about all of the proceeds came to the Pantry.  David and his colleagues made a lot of money for us that evening, and it was great to see him at his best last night in a jazz club.  You can follow David on his website (www.davidjaneway.com) to see where he’ll be performing next.


A shout-out to Ardsley United Methodist – they did another food drive for us last Saturday and Ken came on Monday with his SUV packed with food, together with a pile of gift cards and several checks from individual parishioners, as well as cash donations from the church’s pastor, Beth Vieira and Rev. Mark DelGuidice in memory of his wife, Song.  AUMC has stood by us through thick and thin and we love them for it.


And another shout-out to Dobbs Ferry Lutheran.  They did a food drive for us over Easter, and on Wednesday they delivered eight bags of food.  The food from both churches will be given out this coming Wednesday.


Dobbs Ferry is a small town, so I know I’ll see the people on this list on Main or Cedar Street, or in Stop & Shop.  I’m sending a virtual hug to you all!

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April 22, 2021

Good afternoon, everybody – yesterday we served 131 families, including 221 adults, 139 children and 36 seniors.  A total of 483 people were served yesterday, and our delivery mavens made 47 deliveries to Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, Irvington and Greenburgh.  Four new families (that’s right, four) applied yesterday.


Next Wednesday, both morning and evening, will be my last time at the pantry.  I’ll always be there in the background, making phone calls, sending texts, etc., and my husband Benny will be signing people in every week, so I won’t be totally detached, but co-directors Vera Halpenny and Gretchen Skaggs are poised to take the reigns, and the pantry will be in excellent hands.  And an extra shout-out to SPRING Community Partners Executive Director Robin Larkins for being a constant force of energy at the pantry since its beginning.


Since the beginning of the pandemic, Monique McCoy, Agency Relations Director of Feeding Westchester, has been having a biweekly virtual meeting of food pantries where we learn what’s going on at Feeding Westchester and also touch base with each other.  It’s kind of a support group as pantries grapple with the changes we’ve gone through this past year.  Today both Gretchen and I attended, and she’ll be representing the pantry at the meeting from now on.  It’s a great way to find out how other pantries are handling problems which we’ve faced ourselves now that we’ve grown so much bigger.


When the pandemic started we were still operating out of South Church’s Fellowship Hall.  As we added more and more clients, even though the clients and tables were outside, there was more and more noise in Fellowship Hall, which made it hard for the children in the nursery school underneath to concentrate.  We then moved our operations into the Sanctuary, and I’ve posted pictures on the website of how our operations filled up the space.  Now that there’s a plan to actually schedule religious services in the Sanctuary, we’re moving back to Fellowship Hall, but most of our packing activity will take place in the evening, when the nursery school has finished for the day. It’s a huge operation, and my hat is off (and my heart goes out) to the team of volunteers, headed by Duke Coffey, who will undertake this transfer.  Our new co-directors have their work cut out for them.


A thank-you is in order to the Sharing Shelf (www.sharingshelf.org), located in Port Chester, for providing holiday outfits and other clothing to the children of our clients.  One of our clients posted a picture on Facebook of her daughter, proudly posing in her Easter finery.  The Sharing Shelf operates throughout Westchester, and searches for ways to help people in need, particularly with clothing but also diapers and hygiene supplies.  They are a hard-working organization, and we at the pantry are lucky to be helped by them.


And a thank-you in advance to Ardsley United Methodist Church, 525 Ashford Avenue in Ardsley, for organizing a food drive for us this coming Saturday, April 24 from 11:00 to 1:00 at the church.  Pick up something extra for the pantry (especially canned diced tomatoes, pasta sauce in plastic jars or cans, tuna, hearty soups – or size 6 diapers and baby wipes), and drop it off at the church and Ken Stahn will deliver it to us next Monday.  A virtual hug to everyone at AUMC for being by our side throughout this pandemic, and for years before!

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April 14, 2021

Good evening, everyone – I wasn’t at the pantry today but all the other volunteers handled everything like a well-oiled machine, including my husband, Benny, who signed the clients in.  Today we served a total of 131 families, including 261 adults, 175 children and 43 seniors. totaling 479 people.  Four new families signed up.  Just about every week we have at least one new family.  And our dedicated delivery team made 47 deliveries.


I have exciting news!  Gretchen Skaggs, our own beloved volunteer, has offered to become a second pantry co-director with Vera Halpenny.  Now I can really retire!  We’re going out to lunch next week so that we can discuss all the tasks they’re going to take on.  They’ll make a wonderful team.  Thank you, Vera and Gretchen!


The pantry received a spectacular surprise today.  Out of the blue, five cars pulled up from the Scarsdale Woman’s Club and they unloaded tons of food that they had collected for us a couple of days ago.  It’s a lot of work to gather all that food, pack it into cars and drive it over to us, so my hat is off to the women (and men) of the Scarsdale Woman’s Club.  And they’re going to do it for us again in May and June.

We had a visitor today from the Elmwood Day Camp, just to see how things work.  When the camp opens for the summer she wants to decide how they can help the pantry.  Vera is in touch with them, and I believe they may do a couple of food drives for us over the summer.  The children will be learning about giving and helping others.


And every week we faithfully receive from Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings enough of one vegetable or fruit to serve our whole population.  Last night they came as always, this time bringing enough spinach for all our clients.  Special thanks to Cantor Robin Joseph for organizing this effort and seeing that it happens every week.


This past Monday Robin and I attended a zoom meeting sponsored by the Hudson River Presbytery, which oversees all the Presbyterian churches throughout the Hudson Valley.  This was a special meeting for food pantries, and there were pantries there from as far north as Monroe, Jefferson Valley and Cold Spring.  And all the pantries are struggling with the same issues we are here at South Church – occupying all the space in the church and figuring out how to house both a food pantry and an active church congregation.  Most of the pantries have seen an explosion of clients like we have.  Susan DeGeorge, Clerk of Session, suggested that a quarterly meeting of pantries may be beneficial and helpful.  I mentioned this to the volunteers today at our zoom meeting, and it was agreed that I’ll let Susan know that the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry would appreciate this ongoing support.

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April 8, 2021

Good afternoon, everybody – yesterday we served 127 families with 254 adults, 165 children, and 40 seniors, totaling 459 people, and our delivery team made 47 deliveries.


We had another meeting with the South Church Session members to get a clearer idea of how the church can open and have services on Sunday mornings while the Pantry is still serving so many families.  Our team came up with two alternative plans, with diagrams and schematics included.  What an amazing crew.  You should have seen Vera explaining the plans.  She’s a skilled presenter, and we’re lucky she’s with us.


Roma and Vera are in regular touch with Erica Razek of Doin’ Good in the Hood.  She routinely scours Westchester County to find extra products that people have in order to give them to whoever needs them.  She’s given us extra food, hygiene supplies and cleaning products, and has taken extra products that we have and given them to others.  What a worthwhile effort, and what a dedicated person she is.

Every Tuesday night two of our volunteers pick up extra food, including milk and produce, from Mom’s Organic Market (83 Stanley Avenue in the Rivertowns Square mall).  Mom’s reached out to us almost as soon as they were settled in.  I’m told that Mom’s is a chain whose mission is to help food pantries wherever they are.  I don’t know if people have been to Mom’s, but they also have bins as you walk in for compost, batteries, glasses, and a couple of other things I can’t think of right now.  They’re really into recycling.  Plus they now have two stations in their parking lot for electric cars to be charged.


While students were in virtual school, a number of teens whose mothers are volunteers at SPRING Community Partners have been arriving at the Pantry on Wednesday mornings to help in whatever way they’re needed.  Ellen Crane, Co-Director of SPRING, is the mother of a teen herself, and she has been able to round up many of her son’s fellow students, who have come willingly to help until they need to get back to their classes.  We’ve also been helped by teens from the South Church Faith and Justice Lab.  Now they’re all going back to school in person this coming week and they won’t be with us.  We will miss them terribly, and so will our clients.  A huge thank you to all the teens who made life easier for us volunteers and for the families we serve.  The Pantry will seem empty without them.

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Thank-you cards from Girl Scout Troop 2305 for volunteers of Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry

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April 1, 2021

Good afternoon, everybody – yesterday in the morning we served 147 families, including 287 adults, 172 children and 58 seniors, and our delivery team made 47 deliveries.  In the evening we served another 13 families, including 21 adults, 10 children and 4 seniors.  This brought us to 160 families, 308 adults, 182 children and 62 seniors, for a total of 568 people served.  This broke another record – our numbers are going up, not down.  In the month of March we averaged 144 families and 517 people a week.  In contrast, in February we averaged 133 families and in January 115.  It is our goal to help as many people as we can for as long as we can, so we’ll continue to plug along.


This past Monday we were visited by Jen Kupershlak and Kristin Javier, leaders of Girl Scout Troop 2305.  Jen’s daughter Helen was also with them as they delivered bags of hand-baked cookies and other goodies, plus beautifully-decorated thank-you cards from the Scouts to thank us volunteers for the work we do.  Our hearts were warmed by the efforts the girls and their parents made on our behalf, and the goodies and cards were quickly distributed to all of the volunteers.  There are many of us volunteers now that we’re serving so many clients, and we are so appreciative of all the caring and work on the part of the Scouts that went into this wonderful offering.  Thank you, Scouts, parents and leaders!


Last night Benny and I visited Scaramella’s Restaurant (1 Southfield Avenue, Dobbs Ferry) to thank them for providing delicious prepared meals to the pantry’s clients last week, paid for by a very generous donor from The Landing.  Owner Sal Triarsi was welcoming and gracious, and we couldn’t resist  sitting down and ordering dinner.  I might add that there were several other happy diners and a couple of birthdays being celebrated while we were there – all appropriately distanced, of course.  The pantry’s clients have been well-fed by many of the restaurants in the Villages, including Scaramella’s, and we hope we can continue this happy and nourishing experience for our clients.  Michelle Adams of On The Line has worked hard throughout the year to arrange for restaurants to bring these meals, and we are thankful for her dedication.


This is Easter week, and South Presbyterian Church will be offering a number of events today (Maundy Thursday), tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.  You can check the church’s Facebook page for all these activities.  On Easter Sunday there will be a live service at 6:00 a.m. at the waterfront, and a virtual service on Facebook Live at 10:00 a.m.  The virtual service will take place in the church sanctuary, and our volunteers were busy yesterday, clearing the front of the sanctuary so that this service could take place.  The Pantry is grateful to South Church for continuing to allow us to use the sanctuary as a work area for the Pantry, although so far it has made it impossible to have live services on Sundays.

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March 25, 2021

Good afternoon, everybody – yesterday we served 130 families, including 264 adults, 174 children and 41 seniors, totaling 479 people served.  Our stellar delivery team made 47 deliveries throughout Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, Irvington and as far as Greenburgh.


I’ll be retiring from the Food Pantry sometime this year.  My Co-Director, Vera Halpenny is shouldering more and more of the work of directing the pantry, for which I’m extremely grateful.  She’s already made my life so much easier.  Thank you, Vera!


One of the things she did was to come to South Church today to receive a donation of food collected by Congregation Rosh Pinah Chavurah of Hastings.  They’ve collected food prior to the start of Passover, and they’ll be bringing more food to us when Passover ends.  Thanks so much to everybody at Rosh Pinah for joining in this drive, and special thanks to Beverly Kissel and her group for bringing the food to us today.  And overarching thanks to volunteers Vera, Duke Coffey and Gretchen Skaggs for being there today to receive the delivery!


This past Saturday, March 20, was a huge one for the Pantry.  The Ardsley Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts had spent several weeks collecting food for the Pantry in the bin at Stop & Shop.  On Saturday they collected it all and delivered it to Ardsley United Methodist, where they were holding a food drive for us.  Then the Scouts stayed to help collect more food donations and to load everything into cars for the trip to the Pantry on Monday.  There was so much food that it took two cars – Ken Stahn AND Judy Whelan – to bring it all on Monday morning.  Thanks so much to the Ardsley Methodist crew, and thanks to Scout leaders Sheri, Jackie and Mary for organizing and carrying out this major effort!  We’ll have food for our clients for quite a while thanks to this event!


Yesterday our clients took home delicious meals prepared by Scaramella’s in Dobbs Ferry.  The meals were provided by a very caring and generous donor at The Landing, who has helped us many times before.  Our clients loved the meals, and the residents of The Landing have been extremely concerned and helpful to us at the Pantry.  We’re grateful to all of you.


Due to the efforts of Feeding Westchester and others, food pantry volunteers were permitted to be vaccinated due to the fact that they supply food to the public.  On Tuesday, March 2 quite a few of our volunteers got their first shots at Westchester Community College.  This coming Tuesday, March 30, they’ll all be receiving their second shots.  This has made a huge difference in the lives of our volunteers, and we’re delighted that the powers that be recognized the importance of vaccinating these volunteers.  We’ve been facing the public throughout this pandemic for over a year, and these vaccines will make a big difference in our lives.  


A quick shout-out to caterer Renee Kashuba, owner of Made By RK (www.foodmadebyrk.com) .  She’s been a friend to the Pantry since the beginning of the pandemic.  All summer long she brought fresh soup and goodies for all our clients, and currently once a month she donates 100 bags of rice and 100 bags of black beans for us to give to our clients.  All out of the goodness of her heart and in the middle of a busy schedule.  Deepest thanks, Renee.

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March 18, 2021

Good morning, everybody – yesterday we served a record 159 families, including 320 adults, 193 children and 59 seniors, bringing us to 572 people served.  Our delivery volunteers also made a record 49 deliveries.  Now that people are finally starting to receive vaccinations, maybe some will be able to go back to work, which means they’ll be able to buy their own food again.  Then our numbers won’t be so high.  That’s what we’re hoping for.  Then maybe some of those people will turn around and donate to the pantry.  It has happened in the past, and we deeply appreciate it.


Yesterday the Sharing Shelf (www.sharingshelf.org) sent individually-wrapped packages of holiday dresses, tights, shoes and even little pearls for the elementary-school-aged daughters of our pantry clients.  Last week one of our volunteers had taken down all the sizes for the girls, so each package was destined for a particular girl.  Parents  of sons were disappointed, but the Sharing Shelf had also sent some coats to donate, so those parents took something home to their sons also.  They are a wonderful organization, and all volunteer!  They reach throughout Westchester to help needy families with clothing, diapers, feminine hygiene products, etc.  If you’re looking for a place to donate children’s clothing, this is it.


Tuesday evening at South Church is when a team of volunteers collects fresh produce and puts it all into bags to be given out the next morning.  It’s amazing what a well-oiled machine they are.  And this past Tuesday was the first time that a couple of volunteers were able to pick up some donations from Mom’s Organic Market (83 Stanley Avenue, Dobbs Ferry, in the Rivertowns Square shopping mall).  They’re a brand new market and they already reached out to us to see how they could help.  Our hopes are high that they can provide us with organic produce for our clients!


This Saturday, March 20, from 11:00 to 1:00 is the Ardsley United Methodist Church’s big food drive for the pantry, together with the Ardsley Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.  The Scouts have been collecting for this drive at Stop & Shop for several weeks, and they’ll bring whatever they gather from that bin to Ardsley Methodist, so we should have a lot of food to carry us through the next few weeks.  AUMC has been our friend for years and years, and we especially appreciate the Ardsley Methodist Women for running these food drives for us many times.  A hug to you all!


Molly Rodriguez, Co-Director     Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry     914-522-1154

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