Safe Net's appeal keeps doors opens

By Lauri Voter- Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Sat., Feb. 25, 2012
Safe Net Ministries President Keith Marin describes some of the recent upgrades made to the Safe Net facility over the past year. Marin said that Safe Net Ministries will go through approximately 3,000 pounds of food per distribution day. Photos by L. Voter.
Safe Net Ministries President Keith Marin describes some of the recent upgrades made to the Safe Net facility over the past year. Marin said that Safe Net Ministries will go through approximately 3,000 pounds of food per distribution day. Photos by L. Voter.

In January of 2011, Safe Net Ministries relocated to its current headquarters at 86 Main St. in Stafford Springs. Rather than continue to rent its former location, Safe Net opted to buy 86 Main St. by mortgaging its short-term, transitional home, “Elsie's House,” which was originally given to Safe Net by the town of Stafford Springs, then rehabilitated to serve its current function of housing families in transition due to extenuating circumstances such as fire, condemnation of property and landlord foreclosure.

Safe Net Ministries began the process of upgrading its new property, and throughout the year has transformed the interior of the client area through the help of volunteer, professional carpenters, an electrician and a plumber. With the interior work nearly complete, volunteers will soon begin focusing on improving the building's exterior.

In addition to the public area on the main floor, the property comes with two upper level apartments, but Marin said that work has not yet begun on them. Like Elsie's House, Safe Net will rehabilitate those living spaces to serve as transitional residences. “That's a long-range project,” said Marin.

Safe Net conducts food distributions at 86 Main St. on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Food pantry clients may include “anyone who is a resident of town, Stafford or Union, or a member of a local church in town,” said Marin. For instance, people who reside in towns other than Stafford or Union, but who are members of a Stafford or Union church, may utilize the food shelf's services. That said, Marin expressed concern that there is a public misconception that Safe Net Ministries is “strictly Christian.”

“That's not the case,” said Marin. “We're open to anybody. Anybody can come and volunteer here, anybody [Stafford and Union residents] can come and get food here,” said Marin, who said that some clients revealed that they were afraid they were going to be preached to or judged when coming to Safe Net. Marin assures potential clients that Safe Net is non-judgmental and will not issue sermons. 

Clients should expect to show their identification on each distribution day. New clients will fill out a self-disclosure form, providing their name, address, phone number, number in household and household income. New clients will also participate in a brief interview. All clients re-register on a yearly basis. Safe Net's food pantry is a supplemental food program, and on distribution days, a client will receive a pre-filled box containing a variety of food, and may select a personal care item. Safe Net may also have some baby care essentials, as well as items for dogs and cats.

“We have 140 families per distribution, on average,” said Marin. “Generally, each distribution, we're passing out 3,000 pounds of food.”

In addition to individual donations, Safe Net, in partnership with Foodshare, receives a delivery of food every other Monday, and Marin said that his wife, Laura Marin, who is the food pantry director, makes weekly trips to Foodshare to purchase food.

Safe Net also helps people with utilities and fuel assistance, said Marin, “but they [clients] need to be referred from social services to us.”

In the fall of 2011, mainly due to the poor economy and Safe Net's lack of publicity efforts, Marin believes, and with monetary and food donations at a low, Safe Net Ministries launched a public appeal for funds, expressing its dire need to raise $5,000 just to keep its doors open. Marin said that the appeal was successful, and the organization continues to provide services and accept monetary and food donations on a regular basis. Marin said that donations of items are appreciated, but for every $5 in monetary donations, Safe Net is able to purchase substantially more food items from Foodshare than an individual can buy at retail. “We can always make the money stretch farther than the food,” said Marin.

Marin said that the town of Stafford answered Safe Net's fall appeal by making a donation to assist the organization in its time of need, but otherwise Stafford is not heavily involved in Safe Net Ministries' operation, which is funded through individual donations and private grants. Marin emphasized that Safe Net is “all strictly donations; we're all strictly volunteer – there's no paid personnel here whatsoever.”

Safe Net accepts food and monetary donations from anyone who would like to donate, and wants to hear from all interested would-be volunteers. For detailed information about Safe Net Ministries, to make a donation or to inquire about volunteering, visit www.safenetministries.com or call 860-851-9987.


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