Can a food pantry or a soup kitchen ever have too much?”
Marilyn Richardson, manager of the Saugerties Area Council of Churches Food Pantry, answers her own question emphatically.
“No. The need is always there,” she says. “It’s ongoing. We have months that people give a lot, and then it slows down, just like any business.”
But the need is year-round. Despite the generosity of the Saugerties community – which according to Richardson, is considerable – the demand continues to be as great as ever. The numbers for 2013 haven’t been compiled yet, she says, but a preliminary look shows that they’re very similar to 2012, when the Food Pantry gave out over 26,000 meals to local residents struggling to make ends meet.
“And people are so grateful to get help,” says Richardson. “We’ve been asking people lately what the pantry means to them, and they’re just overwhelmed. They’re so glad that it’s there, that they can come in once a month when they need it, and that they can choose their own food.” (Unlike some food pantries, she explains, the Saugerties Food Pantry has a select-your-own system where recipients can opt for the foods they normally eat rather than receive a pre-packed selection of food.)
“Our pantry is really blessed,” says Richardson, “because our community really gives – we wouldn’t be here without them.”
When she first took over the pantry two decades ago, she says, she had a building with a dirt floor, no heat, hot water or toilet and a budget of just $500 to work with. Now each year the pantry benefits from food drives sponsored by a number of organizations including the Boy Scouts, Key Club and the post office’s annual food drive, along with donations from events like the annual Village Invasion and the Blue Mountain Turkey Trot.
Monetary donations enable the pantry to purchase food from the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York in Latham, a nonprofit organization that buys surplus food and collects donations from the food industry to sell at wholesale prices to food pantries, who then distribute it to those in need. “For every dollar that is donated to us, we have a purchasing power [at the Latham Food Bank] of $1.30 to $1.60, depending on what we order,” Richardson says. On average, the Saugerties Food Pantry orders 3,850 pounds of food every month at a cost of approximately $30,000 annually.
When asked if there are any items in particular that Richardson would like to see people donate, she says there are two items she’d like to see more of: pears and creamed corn. “A lot of people love pears but they’re not on the list for ordering at the Food Bank. And I can order shampoo and soap, but not toothpaste and toothbrushes, so I would really like to see more of those items.”
Donations of canned goods, non-perishable food items and toiletries can be brought to the Saugerties Area Council of Churches Food Pantry during its regular hours of operation. They’re open two days a week at 44 Livingston Street on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon, and one evening per week on Tuesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. To make a monetary donation, mail a check (made out to Saugerties Area Council of Churches, with “Food Pantry” on the memo line) to P.O. Box 723, Saugerties, NY, 12477. (Checks should not be mailed to the Livingston address.)
The pantry is also currently holding its annual fundraising raffle with tickets on sale now at Village Apothecary, Smith Hardware, Sawyer Savings Bank and the Boys & Girls Club. Tickets are two for $5 or five for $10. The drawing will be held Tuesday, Dec. 17. First prize is $500 cash, donated by the Blue Kats organization, second prize is a $100 Price Chopper gift card and third prize is a three-month IXL membership. In addition, over 40 gift certificates from local merchants will also be awarded in the raffle.
For more information, call (845) 246-6885 or visit www.saugertiesfoodpantry.sawyervision.org.