Less than a month into her new job, Patty Hartman already know what makes the Cheshire Food Pantry a success: volunteers and the community.
“This town is amazing. The generosity is like something you see in a movie,” Hartman said. As the new executive director since Oct. 1, she has also noticed the increased demand for food and household supplies. “We’ve had 17 new people in the last six weeks,” Hartman said.
The pantry serves about 200 people a week, according to volunteers. Food and monetary donations from the Annual Cheshire Food Drive benefits the pantry, Hartman said. But, despite the generosity of residents, the scarcity of certain items is an ongoing issue.
“Cooking oil, spices, flour and sugar; they go really quickly,” Hartman said. “Shampoo, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, they don’t last a shift,” she added.
Hartman, who spent her summers in Cheshire while growing up, had a similar job in Arizona before she was laid off. She said there are number of reasons why residents need the services of the food pantry:
- Loss of work
- Retirement savings doesn’t cover cost of living
- Social Security income doesn’t cover costs
- Single parent families
Residents must apply and be approved by the Cheshire Department of Social Services to become clients of the pantry. Qualifying income for family of four is less than $33,075. For a couple, the guideline is an income of less than $21,855.
Recent donations to the pantry have come in from social and religious organizations as well as individuals, Hartman said.
- Temple Beth David Bat Mitzvah group donated 708 pounds for food on Oct. 3
- St. Bridget School’s eighth grade class held a “Stuff a Bus” food drive and collected over 2,100 pounds of food on Sept. 28
- Cappola-Brokaw Art of Hair held a charitable “blow out” event and donated 81 pounds of food.
- Girl Scout Troop # 60124 at Doolittle Elementary School assembled birthday gift bags for children that contain all the elements to host a party. (Cake mix, party favors, plates, juice boxes, etc.)
- Lucas Riccitelli, 9, chose not to receive birthday gifts in lieu of donations for the pantry. He collected $95 in cash and 46 pounds of food.
Hartman said an important goal in these first few months is to build a larger volunteer base. The non-profit organization now has 45 volunteers. “The pantry survives because of volunteers. It’s run better than most manufacturing plants,” she said.
Volunteers help with picking up donations from Stop & Shop and Everybody’s Market, shopping with clients at the pantry, and delivering food and supplies to residents who are home bound.