August 10, 2011 —
The food pantry had only been open for 15 minutes on July 28, when there was a line out the door. Adults waited with their children to receive rationed food from the ecumenical food pantry in Narrowsburg.
Barbara Peters, a volunteer at the pantry,said, “Circumstances can change drastically in your life, in a minute, and it’s nice to know you have neighbors.”
The food pantry, a collaborative effort of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, Narrowsburg United Methodist Church and the Upper Delaware Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, offers food to families in New York and Pennsylvania within a 10-mile radius of Narrowsburg.
As the patrons came and went, only a few were willing to talk, with the condition of only using their first names.
When Flo visited the pantry Thursday evening to drop off a card, Peters offered her some Rice Krispies. Laughing, she said, “I’m tired of Cheerios.” At this time, Flo is only collecting Social Security. Proudly, she said, “I don’t use it all the time, I’ll go months sometimes” without receiving the assistance. It is toward the end of the month, when things get low that Flo is most likely to visit the pantry.
A first-time visitor to the pantry, Maureen is a nurse’s assistant and is using the pantry because she was in a major car accident. Recently Maureen moved to a nicer home, where she is paying more for housing. She said the move was “probably silly,” but because she is tired of “paying a low rent and getting garbage,” it’s worth spending the extra money.
Because her arm was severely injured in the accident, Maureen is only able to work part time now. But once her injuries are better, she intends on working regular hours again.
Sitting with a toddler in her arms and her other children waiting, a young mother with a household of six, Kelly hesitantly spoke of the struggles she is dealing with because her husband had to go on disability. She called the pantry “great” because people are not discriminated against and no one gets “frowned upon,” she said.
When money is low, Kelly said the pantry is a good resource because she is able to provide healthy foods for her family. Once she becomes financially stable, Kelly said she would like to give back to the community too because she thinks “we’re out for a long haul.” With the prices of life’s essential items and taxes, she said, “It’s a killer.”
One of the clients who was willing to give his full name was Glenn Clark, who was also willing to talk in detail about his situation. Before fracturing his ankle last July, Clark had no problem providing for his family. A truck driver for years, it was hard for Clark to ask for help. If money was ever tight, he would go out and get a second or third job, sometimes working seven days a week for 70 hours, he said.
But now, Clark is in the process of training for a desk job. He is collecting Social Security Disability, which, he said, is “keeping me afloat and helping me out until I can get back on my feet.” Clark is looking to go to college where he is considering a job in bookkeeping or accounting. His wife recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree that will allow her to become a paralegal, but she is struggling to find a job.
Clark would like to be working now, but because he is collecting Social Security, he is unsure of what jobs he can have because the amount of money he can earn is limited. Looking at job ads, he said, “I’m afraid if I go out and do something, they’ll take my benefits away.” Finding the rules of the system confusing, he said, “Once you get in the system, it seems like you’re stuck.”
It took months before Clark received his first disability check. Because of the waiting, he said, “You’re starving to death.” Since he was unable to afford food, Clark said he lost 30 pounds. He has since gained the weight back. To help with the food bill, he has planted a garden to grow various fruits and vegetables.
Before getting injured, Clark said he was not aware of the resources available to people in the area. Now, he volunteers at Katie’s Café at St. Paul’s, an outreach program that provides a free community lunch on the first Saturday of the month. But he questions if he is “taking advantage: am I on this too long, am I coming too often?” But he said by volunteering at the café, he feels better.
At one point, Clark was five months behind on his rent. He said he is very thankful that his landlord took a “gamble with me.” He asked, “Do you know how hard it is to go to your landlord and tell him you don’t have money to pay him?”
To help ease some of the financial responsibilities, Clark has learned a few money saving tricks by watching “Extreme Couponing,” on TLC. With coupons, Clark said he is saving 50 percent off his shopping bill.
Even though he is not crazy about his situation, Clark said one of the best things that has come from this experience is that he is spending time with his family, which he was unable to when he was working. “I keep trying to look at the good things,” he said. “You can get so damned depressed.” he added.
Open on Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., the Narrowsburg
Ecumenical Food Pantry is always in need of basic food supplies like peanut butter, which is a popular item, jelly, canned vegetables, fruits and meats, dry cereal, pasta and pasta sauces, rice and rice mixes, soup and bottled juice.
For more information on donating or receiving food, contact Emily Grillo, pantry president, at 570/729-4038.