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Milford food pantry under pressure

By TOM KANE

MILFORD, PA - The food pantry in Milford has been doing double duty for the last nine or 10 months with long lines it hasn’t seen before.

“I have worked at the Ecumenical Food Pantry in Milford for 12 years, and I have never seen families suffer as much as now,” Nancy Holleran, pantry director, wrote in a letter to the editor in The River Reporter on October 23. “We get more calls every week from families who are struggling to make ends meet. From around 1,584 families a year ago, we now have 1,745 who depend on our ecumenical food pantry to get by.”

The pantry, which gets food donated from five local churches, is only open on Fridays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. “Every week the lines around the panty get longer and longer,” Holleran said.

The churches have a rotating schedule of volunteers to assist the staff of the pantry each month, covering five weeks each. None of the other four churches maintains a pantry of its own. “That’s why we call it an ecumenical food pantry,” she said.

Besides churches, other groups donate food and money to the pantry.

“The schools help us with food drives by the students,” she said. “The Delaware Valley Middle School has a food drive going on right now. The senior high also helps up with donations. The local Boy Scouts of America troop is a wonderful source for foods.”

The panty is located in Milford in the basement of the Good Shepherd and St. John’s Episcopal Church at 5th and Catherine Streets. The other churches that support the pantry with donations are Saint Patrick’s Church in Milford, St. Joseph’s Church in Matamoras, the First Presbyterian Church in Milford and the Milford Methodist Church.

“When a family comes in for the first time, we do not require a referral, but we do for additional times afterwards,” Holleran said. Referrals are required to ensure that families who are truly in need get the food.

“Referrals can be given by a church, a doctor, a nurse, social services or any other responsible individual,” she said. “We don’t ask if they are receiving food stamps,” she said. “We don’t turn anyone away.”

Only dried and canned foods are collected and distributed. No perishable foods are handled.

“We have three categories of families, depending on how many children they have,” she said. “Accordingly, each category may take a varied supply of food.”

A family can come three times a month for the first year, but will be limited to once a month for the second year. “We do that so a family will not become overly dependent of the pantry but will try to find more permanent solutions for their needs,” she said.

The pantry encourages participants to seek financial counseling from their churches in order to help them help themselves, she said. “The pantry does not offer this service,” she said.

“It’s our philosophy that any of us could find ourselves in such needs as these families are experiencing,” she said. “Any of us could lose a job or be cut back in working hours or even lose our homes. It could be me or you. It’s happening more and more these days to almost anyone. No one should feel inferior or less than normal because of these harsh life experiences. The economy is bringing many people down. I’m afraid the economic situation is going to get worse before it gets better. That’s why we desperately need everyone who can to help us.

“We plan to do a food drive at the Shoprite in Montague in November 15 to get ready for Thanksgiving,” Holleran said. “We want to have a nice handout for Thanksgiving dinner. We are going to ask shoppers to donate food at that time. We’ve never done that before. We will have to purchase turkeys if we don’t get donations of them.”

The pantry purchases food at minimal cost from Second Harvest in Allentown, PA, which is a food discount distributing center. It relies on private donations. The federal and state governments offer no assistance to food pantries, she said.

To donate to the Ecumenical

Food Pantry:

Donation checks should be made out to the Ecumenical Food Pantry and mailed to the pantry at Good Shepherd and St. John’s Episcopal Church at 5th and Catherine Streets, Milford, PA 18337. Donations of non-perishable food are also accepted, and arrangements can be made to have them picked up. Call 570/296-8316.

Area food pantries

Pike County

Good Cheer Food Pantry, Greeley—Open the first Wednesday of every month at St. Luke Lutheran Church. 570/226-3966.

Holy Trinity Food Pantry, Dingmans Ferry— Generally open between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, by appointment only, Monday through Friday. Ask for Peg when calling to schedule an appointment. 570/828-7411.

Pike County Food Pantry, Greentown—Open every third Thursday from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Church. 570/676-4066

Loaves and Fishes, Paupack—Open every other Friday from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. at Paupack United Methodist Church. If contacting by phone, leave message. 570/857-1141.

Sullivan County

A listing of Sullivan County pantries was published in our October 9 issue. It may be accessed online at riverreporter.com/issues/08-10-09/news-food.html .

Wayne County

Damascus Area Pantry—Held at the Damascus Township Building. Serves Damascus, Lebanon, Manchester and Equinunk. 570/253-4262.

Honesdale Area Pantry—Held at the Tri County Beverage Building on Route 6, 214 Willow Avenue in Honesdale. Serves Honesdale, Hawley, Bethany, Prompton, Waymart, Cherry Ridge, Berlin, Canaan, South Canaan, Clinton, Dyberry, Oregon, Palmyra and Texas. 570/253-4262.

TRR photo by Tom Kane
Pantry director Nancy Holleran is a 12-year veteran of the Ecumenical Food Pantry (Click for larger version)