Windsor Food and Fuel Bank supports community

By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Windsor - posted Fri., Mar. 29, 2013
The Windsor Food and Fuel Bank bags a large amount of food to be donated. Photo contributed. - Contributed Photo

As the chilly weather of March seems to have finally given way to the seasonable weather of April, just think back two months ago where temperatures hovered in the low 20s and winds made it unbearable to go outside. Now imagine living in your home without any oil to heat it. Imagine further not having a warm meal to help you through the harsh evening. This scenario is all too true for many families and residents, and the volunteers at the Windsor Food and Fuel Bank are working their hardest to help by raising money to put towards heating and oil expenses while collecting food for sustenance and nourishment.

“The most important thing to know is that people that used to give to the food and fuel bank are now on the receiving end,” said Jane Garibay, who is the president of the Windsor Food and Fuel Bank. “With the economy the way it is, it’s your neighbors, it’s the average person who loses their job. The services that we provide help them get over that hump. What we’re doing is to help people just get through the tough times, and it’s emotional because people know that we care and are looking out for them.”

Windsor resident Eric Lazarus, pricing manager for Valassis Direct Mail Inc., in Windsor, worked as the chairperson of the diversity committee hosting and sponsoring monthly meetings and events raising awareness about any and all topics, from race and sex to age and religion. During Poverty Awareness Month, Lazarus and the company looked to different organizations in the town to learn about poverty awareness as a business while supporting the community they work in. At that time the company began to help with donations to the group, supporting families with holiday meals and providing backpacks and school items for back-to-school time.

During these events Lazarus saw the true impact the group had on the town and realized that people in need or in poverty have no description or defined characteristics, noting that the people he was helping could be sitting next to him on the green at the summer concerts, marching past him in the Shad Derby parade or coming over to his house to spend time with his daughter. This realization led him to volunteer his efforts full with the Windsor Food and Fuel Bank, something he says he wishes he had done sooner.

“To know that there are so many families, so many people, so many children in this town that fall under that line and need help, for me not to help would have been not me,” Lazarus said. “I get no greater satisfaction than helping people in need. It’s all about spreading warmth; what I’m doing is impacting them and helping them directly.”

The Windsor Food and Fuel Bank was founded in 1967 as the Windsor Community Service Council, a group of concerned private volunteer citizens, looking to help people in need throughout the town and making sure no person goes hungry, is cold, or is without basic necessities. The group has grown since then and now includes more than 500 families who are currently signed up to use the food and fuel bank.

The group conducts food drives throughout the year at Geissler’s and Stop and Shop, asking the community to donate anything they can spare or purchase a can or item to be given to someone in need.  Garibay said that every little bit helps, noting that a jar of peanut butter or a can of soup spreads much further than you realize. She also noted that one dollar donated to the group equates to five dollars worth of food for the group. 

The group also aids in providing emergency funding for basic needs such as purchasing a fridge for a diabetic family in need. The group does not limit its giving to just food, fuel and basic necessities, as they have begun to help families around the holiday times with events such as Project Santa. The event sponsors 405 children in Windsor who would go through the holidays without any toys or items to give them holiday cheer. Local businesses also chipped in with the event, sponsoring children and helping out even more kids than the food and fuel bank thought possible.

Windsor Food and Fuel Bank also works alongside Windsor CARES (Citizens Assisting Residents Everywhere by Sharing) and Windsor Social Services. Garibay said that the community support and outpouring from local civic groups, businesses and residents does a great deal and allows the food and fuel bank to support Windsor CARES and social services, noting that without the food and fuel bank's support social services would likely cease to exist.

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