A WIN-Win For FAITH Food Pantry

FAITH Food Pantry has relied on the kindness and support of Newtown residents and even a few businesses for more than three decades. The pantry, situated in the undercroft of St John’s Episcopal Church on Washington Avenue, earlier this year observed its 30th anniversary of providing food to residents who need a hand putting meals on their table.

In June, food pantry co-organizers report they were providing food for nearly 5,000 meals per week. Volunteers plan for three meals per day per family member.

Earlier this month, Women Involved in Newtown became the latest local group to offer an ongoing donation to the food pantry, which also provides toiletry items for many of its clients. WIN has arranged to have a small basket placed inside the Newtown Starbucks store, and it was quietly put into place a few weeks ago.

Customers of the Church Hill Road business will find the basket to the left of the cashier’s counter, with a list of suggested items that can be placed in the basket any time the store is open. Suggestions include cereal, juice, peanut butter, jelly, tuna, pasta, rice, coffee, tea, soup, macaroni and cheese, pancake mix, syrup, canned vegetables, tomatoes and fruit, as well as toiletry items.

“I’ve always wanted to help FAITH Food Pantry. I have read about it, even cut out an article which included a list of items they needed at that time,” said Sandy Hook resident and WIN member Corey Kondras. It was Ms Kondras who raised the idea of the club offering additional support to the food pantry. Club members had already been encouraged to bring donations to meetings.

Ms Kondras saw a similar set-up, she said, at a Starbucks near her place of employment in Stratford.

“I went to my first meeting earlier this year, and brought up the idea then,” she said. WIN agreed to support the project, and members have promised to pick up the items left at Starbucks at least twice a week.

“It won’t be a concern if people keep seeing the basket looking empty,” said Ms Kondas. “We’ll be taking everything out regularly.”

WIN President Colette Ercole loved the idea.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” she said. “Corey has organized it all, with the volunteers. It’s great to be able to provide a different source of food” for the pantry, said Mrs Ercole, who also volunteers with FAITH.

“I know there is always a need for food,” she said. “At times it gets so low. When Corey said she wanted to do this, I was thrilled.”

Through a spokesperson, Starbucks said it was pleased to be able to offer its store as a collection point.

“We take great pride in being part of the Newtown community where patrons and members of the community can come to relax, visit with each other, get work done, and discuss things that are meaningful to them,” a company spokesman said on October 23. “We believe that our stores, our partners [employees], our customers and our coffee can help bring people together and are proud to play a significant role in building awareness of not only the finest coffee but also great initiatives, such as the Women Involved in Newtown items collection for FAITH Food Pantry.”

While she admits many people don’t think about bringing food items with them with they visit a coffee shop, Mrs Ercole is hoping regulars to the Newtown location will start to think about doing just that when they think about stopping in for their own treats.

“Hopefully people will notice it,” she said of the basket. Some already have, judging by the donations Mrs Ercole took to the pantry recently. En route to one of her volunteer shifts at the pantry, she stopped at Starbucks. There were two bags of groceries waiting for her.

“I was thrilled about that,” she said.

Starbucks has also agreed to give FAITH its unsold bakery items at the end of each day. Baked goods will be packed up by the store’s employees in an airtight container. Volunteers will also picked up those donations a few times each week.

“We lost the baked goods [donations] when Andrea’s [Pastry Shop] closed last year,” said Mrs Ercole. “That used to be such a nice treat for the clients. This will be a little something different again.”

Food Pantry Co-Chair Lee Paulsen promises the baked goods will be enjoyed by her clients.

“We can freeze things like that,” she said. “We have a good freezer, so it’s all good.”

Although it operates out of the church, the pantry’s acronym is a little misleading. The pantry offers Food Assistance for Immediate but Temporary Help. FAITH is a nonecumenical offering. The pantry’s other co-chairs are Barbara Krell and Nancy Taylor.

In addition to donations from residents, FAITH also receives bread from Big Y and DOrazio Sisters Bakery, and milk from Sal e Pepe. Working Women’s Forum asks its members and guests to bring donations with them to the group’s monthly meetings. WIN has also been encouraging its members to bring donations with them for meetings, said Mrs Ercole.

Starbucks in Newtown, at 34 Church Hill Road, is open Monday through Saturday from 5:30 am until 9:30 pm, and on Sundays from 6 am until 9 pm.

Residents who would like to make donations directly to the food pantry are welcome to visit when it is open. St John’s Episcopal Church is at 5 Washington Avenue in Sandy Hook. Volunteers are there each Tuesday morning between 10 am and noon and Thursday evenings between 6 and 7:30.

For additional information about the food pantry and donations, contact Mrs Paulsen at 203-426-5604 or Mrs Taylor, 203-426-8507. 

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