The Birchwood School’s food pantry opened in September, and Principal Jonathan Slaybaugh said so far the community has been very generous.
“We’ve had phone calls from people throughout the county asking what we need and how they can help,” he said.
Over the summer, Slaybaugh knew of one family with ties to the school that was in need of help, and so it was decided to reach out to the community. Slaybaugh said after that he heard about others who also needed assistance, and so the school started a food pantry. Slaybaugh said Birchwood’s Regina Baxter and Dr. Deborah Gay have spearheaded the effort at the school’s pantry.
The pantry recently received an anonymous $1,000 donation from a member of the New City Rotary Club, Slaybaugh said, and on Tuesday, the pantry was . The pantry is currently trying to figure out what would be the best way to use the money. He said they’ve talked about adopting a family, but haven’t made any decisions yet.
Slaybaugh added they definitely need food to provide to the families during the holiday season.
Many other food pantries around the county are looking for donations during the holiday season, but possibly even more than that, many need donations the rest of the year.
St. Aedan Church Deacon James Maher said the food pantry at the Pearl River church received 85 turkeys, 12 hams and a few chickens around Thanksgiving that were donated.
“Unfortunately, hunger is a 12-month issue,” he said.
Maher added that March to April and September to October are fairly dry months in term of food donations. Additionally, the food pantry helps out 26 families every month, which is up from 18 this time last year.
One way Maher found that leads to some more donations is when he finds specific people and families in need. He doesn’t give out names or any info, but if he can tell people that a person or family from their community is in need of help, he finds people seem more willing to donate. Slaybaugh said he’s noticed the same thing.
“People want to know that what they’re doing is making a difference and will actually help people,” he said. “It’s about giving to a meaningful and identifiable cause.”
Maher added that because of seasonal employment, the St. Aedan food pantry helps out people part of year because they’re not working all the time.
“We had this family with three kids who was about to have their electricity turned off, and we got money to help this family out,” Maher said. “The parents found some work after that, and shortly after sent us a check for $200.”
Maher added the pantry didn’t ask for the money, and that people are grateful for the help, so if they can, they try to return the favor.
The St. Aedan pantry was another of the 10 to receive of the foundation's grants Maher said they’ve received a lot of food donations, and the money from the grant will likely be used after the holiday season.
Martha Robles, executive director of Catholic Community Services in Haverstraw, also said they’re doing okay with food donations right now and the money they earned from the grant will be used after the holiday season.
Like St. Aedan, many of the food pantries are run by bigger organizations, and so they try to help out families beyond food needs if they can. A few representatives from pantries said that at this time of year they’re looking for things like heavy winter jackets, hats, gloves, etc.
Nathan Mungin III, executive director for the Martin Luther King Multi Purpose Center in Spring Valley, said his food pantry is also looking for some warm winter clothes to distribute, as well as food. Mungin said the pantry has seen a steady increase in families needing their services throughout the past six years, but it has been a bit more drastic during the past year. Additionally, because of cuts to programs, the pantry has lost “significant funding” from government agencies and other grant programs.
“Others have stepped up, though. Christ’s Ambassadors have donated food to our pantry the last three weekends,” he said. “We’re really just appreciative for whatever someone wants to donate.”