The Many Faces of the Pelham Food Pantry

July 29, 2016

 

by Glenn Krzeminski

Many faces, many walks of life. These aren’t the people who get assistance from the Pelham Food Pantry, but those who volunteer their time to help those in need.

A resident of Pelham for 44 years, Bonnie Moore has volunteered since the pantry was housed in a trailer: “I am lucky to be on this side of the table giving out the food, and I am glad the opportunity is here to get people over the hump.”

Many townspeople may be familiar with the director of the Pelham Food Pantry, Cheryl Brunelle, but may not know the more than 40 adults that volunteer there, including a six-member governing team. In addition, a small number of teenagers come in regularly with their parents.

Young, hungry faces. That’s what compelled Marietta Potter to start the Pelham Food Pantry back in 1990. Potter, who passed away in 2014, was a librarian who encountered children in need every day. Her determination to make a difference led to the creation of a pantry that continues to be a source of tremendous pride for so many in town.

Today the pantry, a member agency of the New Hampshire Food Bank, functions as a program of New Hampshire Catholic Charities, allowing area people to receive food and other necessities each week at no charge. It has grown to now serve 45 to 50 households by supplying canned goods, bread, meat, and dairy products, as well as personal care and household items.

The food pantry, open Tuesday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m., is located in the back parking lot of Saint Patrick’s Parish. Important to note is that those who receive help do not have to have an affiliation to Saint Patrick’s. The pantry exists to help all local residents, as well as those who worship or work in town.

An extensive team of ambitious volunteers who packs, distributes and coordinates the pantry’s efforts makes it possible for people from the community to get the help they need. Maureen Ferguson, a member of the governing team, has volunteered at the pantry almost as long as she has lived in Pelham. Both Ferguson and Moore are parishioners at the First Congregational Church of Pelham and have done a lot of other service throughout their lives and continue to help at the Wish Project in Lowell, the Lazarus House in Lawrence and the Nashua Soup Kitchen too, but they volunteer at the pantry the most.

In addition, Ferguson has participated in a lot of mission trips, and what she has taken away is that you don’t have to travel outside your community to see those who are hungry. That is a major reason she works at the food pantry. One satisfying moment that that she will never forget was seeing a homeless gentleman who rode his bike to the food pantry each week eventually be able to get back onto his feet financially. He found a job and so no longer needed assistance from the food pantry.

Becky Martin and her daughter, Alyssa, have volunteered at the pantry for about seven years. It’s nice to serve (those) who are in front of you, the people in your town, those that are right in your community.” Becky has learned a lot from working with other volunteers and believes it has been a great experience. Building relationships with the clients has been a major highlight ever since Becky started giving her time at the pantry and has not stopped since.

Every Tuesday, Phyllis Dexter, who has also been with the food pantry for many years, goes over to Country Kitchen in Hudson and picks up the bread that is available on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon at the pantry. Responding to why she has volunteered at the Pelham Food Pantry for so long, Dexter is reluctant to give herself a pat on the back. Instead, she answered simply, “If I didn’t have fun and laugh I wouldn’t do it. I am too old.”

These are just a few of the many faces behind the success of the Pelham Food Pantry. Each volunteer plays an integral role often behind the scenes, in ensuring the pantry runs smoothly.

For more information or with any questions, contact Cheryl Brunelle at cdbrunelle@comcast.net.