Be inspired by what a church is doing to feed those in need, and learn where help is available.

MILFORD - More than 100 families receive over 1,000 pounds of food from the Ecumenical Food Pantry in Milford every week. Before last month, they had to make their way into the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church’s basement to access food at the choice pantry.

At an event to commemorate the relocation of the pantry to the the house next to the church, 321- Fifth Street, where the church formerly operated a daycare. Rev. Van A. Bankston said the daylight was nice and the new location was “dignified” since it was no longer in the basement.

Pike County Commissioner Matthew Osterberg called the movement of the pantry a “great addition to the community.”

Nancy Potter, the director of the pantry explained that as a “choice pantry” people are able to select the foods they want, rather than being handed a bag with foods already selected. This, she feels gives “more dignity” to the patrons.

110 families

Currently there are 110 families registered to use the pantry, which means 300 people with 60 percent being adult 18 to 59 years of age; 30 percent are children and 10 percent are seniors over 60 years of age.

The pantry, Potter said survives because of the community’s support and donations. Every week volunteers collect perishable foods donated from Wal-Mart and Price Chopper because those foods are the least commonly donated by the public. With a shortage of cash donations, the dollar is stretched as “we are stewards of the money we are given.”

Because the pantry did serve the Tri-State, Potter said there aren’t any funds from the state and since funding is “tight,” local residents are only served now. Years ago the Ecumenical Food Pantry in Milford was the sole pantry, but today there are nine pantries that serve the public spread throughout the region.

How to get help

To obtain food from the pantry, persons must be pre-approved, provide a proof of residency in Pike County and show their income. Potter though, said she isn’t concerned whether a person has a job or not.

While open Fridays 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Potter tends to be at the pantry more, especially when school is in session. Potter monitors the persons, as she has enacted a process of trying to wean people from the donations, so they aren’t reliant on the pantry. Initially, seniors are able to visit the pantry three times in a month and then, for the second year they can visit the pantry once a month. There are many though, Potter said that don’t last that long because they just needed the help for so long.    

The portions the families receive, depends on the family size; the larger the family, the more foods they receive.

Potter first got involved in the Ecumenical Food Pantry four years ago, when her husband wanted her to find something to do. Initially, she helped with collecting donations from Wal-Mart and then, the senior boxes that are a part of a federal program for residents over 60 years of age. Today, she calls the pantry her “baby.”

Over the course of her tenure, Potter said it has been a “learning experience” since she was nervous initially. As her “baby now” Potter has no problem clarifying the facts to others and informing people of the truths about the pantry, such as those involved are all volunteers, including herself.

The pantry means much to Potter now, she said because she knows the people that need it and seniors for instance, they sometimes just want someone to talk to. The seniors, Potter doesn’t wean off because she knows their incomes are lesser.  

What we’re here for

When Potter started volunteering, 500 families were signed up for the pantry, coming from as far away as Middletown New York for more than seven years. When she started weaning families, giving them three months to find something, she said three families came back for assistance. The others, it had become a “bad habit” and that, is not “what we’re here for” she said. The need for so many pantries, Osterberg called “unfortunate.”  

For 25 years, Clare Nied has volunteered at the Ecumenical Food Pantry because it is a “mission to serve the poor” she said. At her own parish in Matamoros, Nied sought volunteers to work at the pantry and today, some of those same persons still volunteer. They, Nied said are “dedicated people.” As a volunteer Nied collects food donated from her parish, such as a mass collection of 60 boxes of cereal donated by one man every month.

Pat Moltin and her husband Jim Snodgrass have volunteered at the pantry since moving to the area six months ago. Volunteering, Snodgrass called a “passion” as they did it where they used to live too. Seeing how important their efforts are and the appreciation from those who need the services is rewarding he said. The couple tends to work behind the scenes, helping with finances and now, Snodgrass said there is a “financial problem” as donations are down 31 percent this year.

At the event, Potter told a crowd of volunteers and supporters that the pantry survives because of the community, as food collections are held throughout the year whether in the Delaware Valley School District or at the post office and without the donors, the pantry simply “would not exist.” She also told the public that the move from the basement is a “miracle” as the new location “enhances the ability of the food pantry to serve individuals and families with dignity and respect in a safe and welcoming environment.”
The pantry is located across the street from Ann Street Park.

For more information about the Ecumenical Food Pantry in Milford, visit http://goodshepherdmilford.org/ecumenical-food-pantry/ or call 570-618-1568.
The church may be contacted at 570-296-8123 or office@goodshepherdmilford.org. See also https://www.facebook.com/goodshepherdmilford/.