August 22, 2020 – Correction

The next food drive by the Ardsley United Methodist Church for the Pantry will take place on Saturday, September 12 from 10:00 to 1:00, not next Saturday.  Thanks in advance to whoever on this list brings some food or diapers for us on that day!

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August 22, 2020

Good morning, everybody – Last Wednesday, despite the pouring rain, we served 93 families, including 192 adults, 120 children and 30 seniors, for a total of 342 people served.

          We were delighted by a visit in the rain from Assemblymember Thomas Abinanti and his Constituent Liaison, Alyssa Jacobs.  They brought us large and small containers of hand sanitizer and masks, all provided by the State of New York.   We got a chance to show them around, and Mr. Abinanti fondly recalled experiences he’s had with South Presbyterian Church.  Between Mr. Abinanti and State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, our area is represented in Albany by a team of great people who care about needy families.
          As I write this, our friends at the Ardsley United Methodist Church are doing a food drive for us at the church at 525 Ashford Avenue in Ardsley.  It runs until 1:00 today, and they’ll be doing it again next Saturday, so drop over there with some food (tuna and canned tomatoes are in short supply) and/or size 5 and 6 diapers for us.  The people at AUMC are among our most trusted and long-term friends.
          Yesterday I stopped in to Stop & Shop for some groceries and saw that it was their grand reopening.  It’s shiny and beautiful now, and I got to talk to Manager Volante McDuffie while she was showing people around.  She said the new Stop & Shop wants to reach out to the community, so it looks like we’ll be able to count on them for support, as we have all along.  Volunteer Honora G. and I will be meeting with her and her Assistant Manager to talk about putting back the bin we used to have so that people could buy something extra for us and drop it into the bin.  We’ll see what kind of receptacle we come up with.
          Congratulations to SPRING Community Partners, especially Co-Directors Robin Larkins and Ellen Crane, for a successful two-week camp experience for Dobbs Ferry school-age children.  It took place on the Children’s Village campus, and CEO Jeffrey Kohomban was front and center, supporting SPRING and the kids.  The directors and volunteers at SPRING are an energetic bunch.  You can read all about the camp in this week’s Enterprise.
          In addition to donations of food, the pantry can really use monetary donations at this point as well.  Every week we sign up more families.  You can write a check to Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry and mail it to South Presbyterian Church at 343 Broadway in Dobbs Ferry, or you can use the PayPal feature on our website, www.dobbsferrypantry.org.  Any amount you can give us we will gratefully use.
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August 21, 2020 – Roma cleaning up the pantry after we finished. We leave the pantry clean and sanitized every week.

Roma

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August 14, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – this past Wednesday we served a total of 119 families, compared to last week’s 105.  The families consisted of 245 adults, 154 children and 37 seniors, for a total of 436 people served.  We thought we’d see more people this week because we gave Stop & Shop gift cards this week.  The next time we offer gift cards will be on the final Wednesday of the month.

          This was the first time we operated out of the South Church sanctuary in preparation for the opening of Community Nursery School, Days of Wonder Child Care and the Creative Hearts Art Program.   It went pretty smoothly because we’re a congenial team who work well together, even though our team has doubled or tripled in size in order to serve so many clients.  And the clients made the transition well also.
          The presence of SPRING Community Partners has been so helpful because the members are involved in many different school-related activities.  Every week there are volunteers, both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking, to provide guidance to the clients about anything they’re uncertain about – and, believe me, there’s plenty to be uncertain about as parents and their children get ready for school to start.
          Another activity SPRING has started is a small outdoor camp activity for the next couple of weeks for children who haven’t been able to have any camp experience all summer.  It’s taking place on the Childrens’ Village campus and, according to co-directors Robin Larkins and Ellen Crane, it’s a great success even though all the participants have to observe COVID strictures.  They’ve even arranged for a van to transport the children to Childrens’ Village.  SPRING is an amazing group.
          Last week Village Clerk Liz Dreaper dropped off a supply of reusable tote bags with information about the 2020 Census on the bags.  It was just another reminder for people to fill out the Census questionnaire.  Each client got a tote bag and was reminded again of the importance of participating in the census.  The Village of Dobbs Ferry continues to back the pantry in so many important ways, and much of the support comes from Mayor Rossillo, Village Clerk Dreaper, Village Administrator Manley, Fire Chief Marron, and many others.  Thanks to you all!
          This past Sunday Marc Taiano was invited to come to the Irvington Farmers’ Market after it closed, and he was provided with produce left over from the vendors.   We’ve been told that we can go there every Sunday around 1:30 and there will be produce for us.  Before COVID the Pantry used to occupy a table a couple of times every summer, and shoppers would contribute generously in order to help the pantry.  The people at the Farmers’ Market have been very kind to us for years.
          Every week there’s a Zoom meeting sponsored by Feeding Westchester, where pantry and soup kitchen volunteers can get together to schmooze and hear what’s new from Feeding Westchester staff.  This week Monique McCoy, Agency Relations Director, warned us that some unemployed people may start having their unemployment benefits expire towards the end of this month and the beginning of next month.  Let’s hope those benefits are extended or all of our pantries and soup kitchens will see another uptick in hungry families.
          Hope everybody got through Tropical Storm Isaias without too much suffering.  We’ve paid our dues for this hurricane season, don’t you think?

 

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August 7, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – despite the devastation of Tropical Storm Isaias, the pantry took place as usual on Wednesday, although many volunteers and clients were without electricity.  Probably many on this list went through the same thing.  On Wednesday we served a total of 105 families (compared to 130 last week), including 217 adults, 137 children and 28 seniors.  We served 382 people Wednesday.  Last Wednesday it was 491.

          Our clients had been warned that as of this month we will be giving Stop & Shop gift cards out only on the second and last Wednesdays instead of every week.  We wondered if clients were coming mainly for the gift cards, but now we know that many of our clients are in need of food, whether it comes with a gift card or not.
          We’ve pretty much completed our transfer from one section of the church to another in preparation for the opening of the Community Nursery School and Days of Wonder.  This coming Wednesday we’ll be operating out of the sanctuary instead of near the office.  We’ve got some great minds among our volunteers who have figured this all out, and we all stayed in good spirits throughout!  That’s the kind of group we are.
          One of our greatest supporters is Dr. Nitin Gupta of Rivertowns Pediatrics (www.rivertownspeds.com, 914-330-8445).  He has kept us supplied with diapers and baby wipes for a very long time, and he has made financial donations to the pantry throughout the years.  It also helps that he’s a member of the Rivertowns Rotary.  They’ve had food drives for us at Stop & Shop, and other members of the Rotary Club, encouraged by Dr. Gupta, have been interested in helping us as well.  Thank you so much, Dr. Gupta.
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July 30, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – Yesterday we tied our all-time high by serving 130 families (last week 118 families), including 273 adults, 177 children and 41 seniors for a total of 491 people (the most people served ever).  On Wednesday, July 31, 2019 we served 46 families and 161 people.   We were expecting a big turnout because people were aware that beginning in August, sadly, we must give gift cards only twice a month instead of every week.  We averaged 121 families a week in July, and 451 people.  In July of 2019 we averaged 32 families and 114 people.

          This past Wednesday, in addition to the food we received from Feeding Westchester and the food purchased by us from Shoprite, Aldi and Harvest Field Market, we also gave out food that had been donated to us by Ardsley United Methodist Church, Cabrini of Westchester and a neighborhood collection done by families living on Belden Avenue in Dobbs Ferry.  My block of Ogden Place did a food drive, and now we’ve been matched by the folks on Belden Avenue.  It takes many neighborhoods to run a pantry.  Thank you, Belden!
          We also received another beautiful box of vegetables from the garden at the Unitarian Society of Westchester in Hastings.  Liz has been delivering vegetables to us every week since the beginning of the summer.  Thanks so much to Liz and to all the parishioners who till that garden.  We’ve always been served on Wednesday mornings with fragrant offerings from our own Roots & Wings kitchen garden, and now our cup runneth over with more offerings from Hastings!
          This week we also got a donation of food and cat food from a family whose daughter was attending an entrepreneurship camp.  It turned out that as an entrepreneur, her daughter made and sold delicious flans, some to us volunteers.  She divided the proceeds from the sale of her flans and donated half to the pantry!  What an entrepreneur!  And what a supportive mother, too, who helped her daughter deliver the flans to us at the pantry on Wednesday!
          Every week I attend a Zoom meeting run by Feeding Westchester, the umbrella organization over most of the food pantries and soup kitchens in Westchester.  It’s turned into sort of a support group as we all struggle with how to help many more people under the strictures imposed by COVID.  Feeding Westchester has its own problems  – today Monique McCoy, who runs the meetings, said that this summer they’ve provided pantries and soup kitchens with 2 million pounds of food, in comparison with last summer’s 800,000.  Delivering all that food throughout the county has been a particular challenge, and they’ve actually had help this summer from the National Guard!
          Have I mentioned on this blog how much we’ve been supported by SPRING Community Partners?  Yes, I have, so I won’t repeat myself.  Thanks, SPRING.  Thanks, Robin and Ellen.
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July 27, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – It looks like we’ve actually plateaued, but at a high number.  This past Wednesday we served 118 families.  Last week it was 113, the week before it was 118 and the week before it was 124.  We’ll see in the next few weeks if people are called back to work and won’t need help from us after that.  Otherwise, we’ll continue as we have been for as long as we can.

          Included in those 118 families were 251 adults, 165 children and 30 seniors, for a total of 446 people served.  Last week it was 423 and the week before it was 440.
          This week our clients took home a Stop & Shop gift card (in varying amounts depending on the size of the family); a box of shelf-stable food from Feeding Westchester and our pantry; a bag of produce from Fable Farm, the Roots & Wings kitchen garden, Harvest Market in Tarrytown and the Unitarian Society of Westchester’s garden;  homemade soup and bread from MadeByRK; and a new offering of potato salad, coleslaw and tuna salad from Whitsons Culinary Group, which provides food to Children’s Village.  We’ll stay in touch with Whitsons in hopes that they can help us again.
          Harpers/On The Line will be back at a future point with prepared food for our clients, but Renee Kashuba of MadeByRK (www.foodmadebyrk.com, 914-231-7999) is changing her operation and will no longer be able to bring soup and bread for our clients.  The effort she has made to provide gourmet soups and homemade breads for upwards of 120 families every week is astounding.  Thank you so much for all your help, Renee.  Dobbs Ferry is lucky to have you.
          Beginning in August we’ll no longer be able to offer gift cards every week to our families.  We like the gift card model because it ensures that our clients will have some choice in what foods they choose for their families, but we’ll be cutting back to providing gift cards twice a month instead of every week.
          When clients take home a box of food and a bag of produce they have no choice in what they get.  We won’t be able to go back to allowing client choice for some time, though, since we’ll be operating out of doors as long as we can.  Gathering inside the church and looking through our shelves will be impossible during the pandemic.  This week we’re beginning to switch from one section of South Church to another in preparation for the fact that the Community Nursery School, Days of Wonder daycare and Creative Hearts arts program will be resuming their activities in the church this coming September.
          One bright spot is Ardsley United Methodist Church.  This past Saturday they again held a food drive for the pantry at church, and again ended up with a huge number of bags and boxes of shelf-stable foods for us to offer to the clients.  Special thanks to Judy Whelan and the Ardsley Methodist Women’s Group for making this tremendous effort for us.  We’ll start giving out the food this week.
          This past Wednesday, in addition to offering food and gift cards, a Spring Community Partners volunteer was on hand to go over a questionnaire that had been sent to Dobbs Ferry families from the School District, asking their preferences about whether they’d be comfortable with children attending school in person, continuing with remote learning, or a hybrid of the two.  Quite a few parents were helped by the volunteer, Milagros, who speaks both English and Spanish.  Twenty questionnaires were filled out with Milagros’s help and will be forwarded to the District as they wrestle with how to start the school year in September.
          The people in this list have constantly been generous to the pantry through all the years we’ve been in operation.  Please remember us now as we continue to serve the many people who  need our help.  There’s a PayPal feature on our website (www.dobbsferrypantry.org) or you can send us a check made out to the pantry and sent to us at South Presbyterian Church, 343 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522.  Thanks in advance to everybody who stands by us.

 

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July 17, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – The volunteers served slightly fewer families again this week.  Hopefully it means people are returning to work.  This week they served 113 families (last week it was 118 and the week before it was 124), including 235 adults, 155 children and 33 seniors, for a total of 423 people served.  Last week it was 440 people served and the week before it was 453.

          In addition to our own Roots & Wings kitchen garden and our CSA shares from Fable Farm, we’ve been receiving beautiful produce from the Unitarian Society in Hastings as well as produce sold to us at a discount by Harvest Market in Tarrytown.  Robin has been going every week for the last few weeks to pick up fruits and vegetables from the very caring people at Harvest Market so that our clients can continue to have fresh produce every week.
          This past week in addition to a box of shelf-stable food from Feeding Westchester and the pantry, and in addition to their bag of produce, the clients went home with homemade chicken soup and bread from Renee Kashuba of MadeByRK.  Harpers/OnTheLine will be returning soon with more prepared meals for several more weeks.
          This past Monday Benny and I picked up 1,000 cotton masks from Hanes, donated by State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins.  They came in packets of five, and we gave out quite a few to our clients as they stepped up to the table for their food.
          Robin, Marc and I had a zoom meeting with staff from South Church yesterday to explore how we’re going to function once the Community Nursery School, Days of Wonder and Creative Hearts resume their activities in the fall.  Over the spring and summer the pantry, due to the huge increase in clients we’ve been serving, has expanded into just about every corner of the church.  Assuming we won’t be serving quite as many people in the fall, one plan is for us to operate out of the church sanctuary, with food stored in a nearby room.  We’re going to try to maintain our outside operations as long as possible, since if clients need to be inside due to bad weather they’ll all need to have their temperatures checked and they’ll all have to answer a series of questions relating to contact with the COVID virus.  Plus it’s not ideal to have a lot of people crowded into an indoor space.  We may also try offering appointments to clients so that everybody doesn’t come at the same time.  These are all things we’re thinking about and experimenting with.  We’ll keep you posted about how it works out.
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July 10, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – Hopefully we’ve plateaued, although at a pretty high level.  This past Wednesday we served a total of 118 families (last week it was 124, and the week before that it was 129).  This included 241 adults, 163 children and 36 seniors.  We served 440 people (last week it was 453 and the week before 479).

          It takes a village to run a food pantry.  Last week we had so much lettuce that we couldn’t fit it into our two refrigerators.  Robin, Ellen C. and Anilla first approached Hudson Social down at the train station because they’ve helped us before, but they had no refrigerator space.  The next stop was to call Abby Connett, the Director of the Dobbs Ferry Seniors.  She moved heaven and earth for us to be able to store the extra lettuce in the refrigerator space in the basement of Village Hall.  This space is usually used by the firemen, and has been used by the Seniors while waiting for the Embassy Club to be finished.  Thanks to Abby and the Village, we were able to give fresh lettuce to every one of those 118 families.  Not every pantry in Westchester is so lovingly supported by its village.
          We’ve been worried about our clients’ nutrition now that they aren’t receiving the free breakfasts and lunches from the school district over the summer; however, Feeding Westchester sent us a flyer from an organization by the name of HungerSolutionsNY.org, which seems to be a consortium of New York State, the FDA, Walmart, and an organization called Share Our Strength.  They’ll be applying a one- or two-time payment to an EBT card for every family whose children qualify for a free or reduced-fee lunch, including children who attend schools where all the students get a free meal.  We’ll have a pile of flyers in English and Spanish on the sign-in table this Wednesday for people to take home and read.
          This coming Monday I’ll be picking up 1,000 masks, made available free of charge to local businesses and nonprofits by State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins.  It takes a state legislature to run a pantry.
          I’ll also be picking up more Stop & Shop gift cards for our clients.  We’re hoping to keep making these cards available for a few more weeks, until people go back to work and the children get started (somehow) in school.  The monetary donations from people on this list and others have made it possible for our clients, in addition to the pre-packaged food and produce from us, to have a chance to choose what foods they want from Stop & Shop.  This week again clients went home with prepared meals from Harpers/OnTheLine and homemade soup and bread from MadeByRK.  Harpers and Renee Kashuba (MadeByRK) have been faithful providers for our hungry clients.
          I don’t know what the pantry would have done if SPRING Community Partners hadn’t stepped in.  I think we might have had to close.  The consistent, loving attention from Co-Directors Robin Larkins and Ellen Crane, and all the help from the parents and members of SPRING (I didn’t realize what a huge and successfully-run organization it is) made it possible for us to serve four times as many clients every single week.  And they’ll be there again this Wednesday, even though they have lives of their own!  It’s mind-boggling!  Someday someone will have to make a documentary about what it was like for a pantry to suddenly explode in size, look around, and see so many people rushing to the rescue.  It brings a tear to the eye.

 

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July 3, 2020

Good afternoon, everybody – the pantry served fewer people this week than last week!  Maybe we’ve plateaued!  We were expecting more people because the schools are no longer giving free breakfasts and lunches, but it didn’t happen.  Let’s see how the next couple of weeks roll out.  This week the volunteers served 124 families (last week 130), including 253 adults, 165 children and 35 seniors.  A total of 453 people were served on Wednesday (last week 479).  We’re determined to continue to be open every week and to continue giving gift cards every week as long as we can.

          As an extra safety precaution we’ll be taking the temperatures of the volunteers every Wednesday, and also on Mondays while they’re waiting for deliveries from Feeding Westchester.  This is part of the New York State NY Forward Safety Plan, which South Church has asked us to fill out and maintain.  If someone ever has a temperature of over 100.4 they have to go home and be tested.  We’ve been very lucky all this time, but we’re always prepared.  Both the volunteers and the clients wear masks (and we keep extra masks to give anyone who doesn’t have one), and the volunteers wear gloves.  While the pantry is in operation the registration tables are sanitized regularly, and before the pantry is closed the volunteers thoroughly clean and disinfect every surface.  They leave the church absolutely clean.  It’s a lot of work, but the work has paid off.
          Speaking of masks, the office of Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has made free masks available to businesses and nonprofit organizations.  We ordered a big supply so that we’ll always have plenty of masks available for clients and volunteers.
          Another innovation is the introduction of two registration tables instead of one.  This has speeded up the process and the clients don’t have to wait as long to be served.  The pantry is now starting at 9:30 instead of 10:00, specifically for seniors who can’t stand in a long line.
          We’re having a lot of discussions, both among ourselves and with church staff, about how to continue once the weather grows cold.  In the past the clients gathered in the sanctuary to await their turn, but we believe we’ll never go back to serving only 35-40 families a week.  We can’t pack a lot of people into the sanctuary and maintain social distancing.  It’s an ongoing conundrum, and we’ll keep you posted.
          A special shout-out to two families who have been especially nurturing towards the pantry – the Baron family and the McKellar family.  These two families have taken very good care of us, and it seems that both families have cared for Dobbs Ferry in so many different ways.  Thanks to both families, and we’re lucky you live in Dobbs Ferry.
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