Alice Tyler pays it forward by working at food bank
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Mar. 4, 2013
The waiting room at St. Francis of Assisi was crowded with clients waiting their turn to pick up food on March 2. “Blue Bayou” played softly on a stereo system. In a small hallway just off the waiting room stood Alice Tyler. On one side of her was a table with desserts. On the other, shelves of bread.
“Number nine,” she called out. A woman got up from the couch and came over to where she stood. “You always bring your own bags,” Tyler remarked, as she took them from her. Volunteers filled the bags with foods she'd chosen from a menu.
Every month, 140 families come through St. Francis. That number represents 700 mouths. Last year the pantry served 5,111 mouths.
Tyler has been volunteering at the food bank in Danielson for 13 years. She knows the clients and she knows the stock on hand. It fluctuates week from week depending on the donations from the community and the availability of food from the Connecticut Food Bank. On this particular day, there were pears and onions in the cooler room, and macaroni and cheese packets and cans of cranberry sauce in the overage room.
It's her job as assistant director to make the runs to Plainfield to pick up Connecticut Food Bank orders, or to gather donations from all over the community. She stocks the rooms and knows what she has on hand for those days the shelter is open. She helps people select orders and sees to it that they have help carrying it out to their cars if they need it. She knows what it's like to be in need. She knows how hard it is to ask for help.
In 1999 Tyler moved to the area, newly-divorced and with three children to feed. She had a job, but it didn't bring in enough to feed her family. She found St. Francis after looking over a listing of area agencies that could help. “As soon as I walked in the door, I was taken in by how kind they were,” she said. “They didn't make me feel like I was a burden.” Twice she visited the food pantry. Then she decided to volunteer herself. “I believe in paying back,” Tyler said. “I came to volunteer and I got hooked.”
“You try to be fair, to stretch everything out so that everybody gets something,” she said. Winter jackets had come in from the Knights of Columbus. Calendars had come in from Petco. When a woman took two calendars, Tyler politely asked for one back. “When you can give, without expecting anything in return, now that's a gift of life,” she said.
Howard Raymond has been visiting St. Francis for about six years. The 50-year-old Danielson man gets by on Social Security, half of which he spends on rent. He receives between $6 and $16 a month in food stamps. “Six dollars doesn't buy a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk,” he said, “not when milk is almost $4 a gallon.” Unemployment and SNAP overpayments on the part of DSS have muddied the waters for Raymond, who has tried to find an advocate to help him.
St. Francis Director Jean Cyr has heard many complaints about food stamps. “The bottom line is we're here and we rely on the hearts of the community to give us the things we need,” Cyr said. “If there are cuts to be made, we won't be affected. That's how we like to roll, and we're able to help everyone.”