Food Pantry Spreads Wings
By Sandy Donovan
Thursday, October 26, 2006 - Updated: 08:46 AM EST
Chelmsford Community Exchange became a teenager this year as it started
it’s thirteenth year. Like all teenagers it is spreading its wings and
reaching out to other areas where there is a need for families that are
having financially difficulties and have a need to get food that they
cannot otherwise afford to buy.
this timeframe we are working out the logistics of being responsible
for giving food to the families that come to St. Patrick’s Church in
Lowell that cannot get to us in Chelmsford because of lack of
transportation. This will free up the monies for St. Patrick’s St.
Vincent DePaul Society to help in other needed areas as this is a
financially poor parish. Also, we still help St. Patrick’s School in
Lowell with drinks and snacks as many of the families cannot afford to
buy them for their children. This school never refuses anyone because
of lack of funding from a family. This helps both the school and the
we are working with Sr. Jennifer at St. Patrick’s School who is in
charge of the adult classes to get food to those that cannot get our
pantry. It is just a matter of working out the logistics of this
All should be in place before Thanksgiving.
usual it has been an interesting year for us as we began the year by
planning a funeral, scripture readings, music and wake service for a
family. We worked with Dolan Funeral in North Chelmsford which was very
generous to the family.
Wednesday nights have changed slightly as the number of Brazilian
families has lowered for the moment we have opened this night up to the
African community, too, as their food likes and dislikes are similar.
Because there is no language barrier with the African community they
have a choice of either Wednesday night or Friday.
numbers within our own and surrounding communities are on the rise
again as the colder weather sets in and a family’s income has to
stretch further more then it did in the summer. Thanksgiving and
Christmas are fast approaching us. Our number of seniors needing help
has risen, especially in our own community.
are many hidden pockets of families struggling to make ends meet and
with such low federal income guidelines it leaves many families "out in
the cold" to get the much needed help to make ends meet. According to
the guidelines for this year a family of four is not considered on the
poverty threshold unless their income is $20,000 or less and for some
programs that can go to 200 percent or $40,000 for this size family.
Archaic guidelines need to be re-configured to make these guidelines
higher and more realistic. but until that happens for many families the
only option is a food pantry. We do not ask income levels as it is hard
enough for families to make that first step in coming to a food pantry.
I keep it as confidential as I can and this is why I have separate drop
off hours from the food pick up hours.
tell us that we help save them from $60 to $120 a week for food which
makes it possible for them to use the money saved in other needed areas.
special foods needed for people on restricted diets has made major
positive health changes for some who adhere to their diet and take my
advice. One woman’s blood sugar was 347 the first week she came to us
about 6 weeks ago and now it is averaging 123 as of last week. She only
eats the food we give her and listens to the advice for what she needs
to buy at the store. Another woman’s blood pressure lowered, too. Many
stories to tell but not enough space to write about them.
am very strict about people’s diets and only give them the food they
are allowed to eat at the pantry to the best of our ability at the
pantry. It costs the pantry a lot of money to buy these necessary foods
for people but it is worth it when you see the results of a healthier
and happier person. People know I care. My nickname is "Mother Bear"
because I do care but have a tender heart at the same time (which I
keep hidden) but can say no very easily to a diabetic about getting
sweets from us. My volunteers and I take the time to read the labels on
the packages to make sure it is within that person’s dietary limits.
Many times I have heard I learn more from you then my doctor. I tell
them I just read a lot and try to encourage people to educate
me this is God’s pantry and we are all one family in God no matter how
we view Him. God works thru all of us by the giving of our time, talent
or treasure in helping others. The theme when I go out to speak this
year is "Hands are a Gift from God"! Are yours being generous in
is quite evident by the generosity in our own community and others
communities, too. We are blessed by the generosity of so many
individuals, places of worship, schools, businesses and organizations.
Without your support the "Little Pantry with the Big Heart" would stop
of your generosity of monetary donations we are able to purchase the
special food needed for diabetics, high blood pressure problems and
other related dietary issues. They also let us keep buying food from
Merrimack Valley Food Bank in Lowell for sixteen cents a pound and many
times there a free items, too. The food donations help us to give food
to the families that have no dietary problems.
donations help in other areas, too for buying clothing, paying for an
occasional medication needed by a family and other necessary items that
are hard for a family to obtain. Also, we will get calls for helping
people with an emergency fuel situation, especially if the winter is
very cold and fuel assistance hasn’t kicked in yet, if a family
qualifies. Always remember those low guidelines we all deal with in
getting help in any given situation. Most of the families that come to
us have someone working in their family or are disabled. For some
families it is a father with two jobs and a mother with one job
juggling to make ends meet. Medical insurance causes a burden for many
families and there are no easy answers to any of these problems. Many
families cannot afford this insurance and fall in the cracks and again
food is the first thing to go. Nutritious food and the right food for
restricted diets helps to keep an immune system stronger that is being
stretched with anxiety in trying to figure out what to do to survive.
Many families are doubling up and tripling up including our own
community because they cannot make it on their own.
has no boundary lines and pantries help each other out when there is a
need and I work with the St. Vincent De Paul Societies in any community
that we are helping families.
are blessed with many volunteers that allow me to do many other aspects
of the pantry that I would not be able to do otherwise.
We work as a team and you are part of this as an invisible partner of this team by your generosity.
will be speaking at St. John’s The Evangelist Church, North Chelmsford
this weekend, Oct. 28 and 29 at all the Masses and St. Mary Magdalene
on the Dracut/Tyngsboro line on Dec. 9 and 10 to raise funds and create
an awareness we are here to help.
further information call 978 250-3818 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All calls are confidential. Visit our website at
www.homepage.mac.com/poptech/Pantry/Pantry.html. Add it to your
favorites and it just says Pantry.
you for your continued support and may you be blessed with the same
hope you have given to others at the pantry for all these years.
Sandy Donovan is the director of the Chelmsford Community Exchange food pantry