Food pantry helps bridge the end-of-month gap

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Thu., Feb. 14, 2013
Volunteer Jacob Rhoades packs groceries for clients of the Salvation Army's food pantry. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Volunteer Jacob Rhoades packs groceries for clients of the Salvation Army's food pantry. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Lori, a client at Reliance House, was running short on groceries as the last days of January stretched ahead and her food stamps ran low. “The end of the month is tough,” she said.

Lori was at the Salvation Army at 262 Main St., with Reliance House service coordinator Janet Cartell, taking care of some paperwork so that she could receive a bag of groceries from the agency’s food pantry. The three-day supply of non-perishables like canned vegetables and boxed mixes would help tide Lori and other food pantry clients over for a while.

“They’re been very supportive,” Cartell said of the Salvation Army’s work in Norwich. She said that clients of Reliance House, a nonprofit agency which assists adults with mental illness, have also received holiday gift baskets from the Salvation Army. “They’re definitely a help to the community,” Cartell said.

The food pantry operates three days a week, and recipients can visit once a month, said Captain Jerry Uttley. He said that the pantry serves between 250 and 300 families monthly. “They receive enough food for at least three days, and they get more if they have a larger family,” he said. “We try not to deny anyone who says they’re in need.”

Louis Miner said he’s been volunteering at the Salvation Army for six decades. “I got burned out of my house when I was 13 years old,” he said. The Salvation Army was one of the few agencies in town that helped him and his family at that time, he said. “They sent me to camp when I was 13. I got married here, me and my wife, in 1969.” Now he’s paying it forward, bagging and distributing groceries each week.

He’s assisted by Jacob Rhoades, who said he’s been helping “since the age that I can – maybe 12 years old.” A lifelong member of the Salvation Army, he helps make the drive to New London’s Gemma Moran Food Bank to pick up the groceries the pantry will distribute each week. But what he likes best about working at the pantry is the people.

“I like the interactions with the people. It shows that the need is great,” he said. Like Miner, the Salvation Army helped him, and “now as a member, too, I feel I have to give back.”

The Salvation Army has been serving people’s needs in downtown Norwich since 1884, when it was first established in the city, said Uttley. Service has always been key to the Army’s mission. “God has commanded us in scripture to help those in need,” he said. While the Army is a church community, with worship space adjacent to its offices, it welcomes volunteers regardless of their religious views.

“Volunteers are the backbone of our program,” said Uttley. “If not for our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
The food pantry seeks volunteers to work prior to and during its hours of operation, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 to 2:45 p.m. To volunteer, contact Uttley at 860-889-2329.


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