MACC Community Pantry seeing the changing face of need
By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Nov. 8, 2013
As the executive director and chief operations officer for the Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC), Beth Stafford sees plenty of donations in forms of checks come across her desk, and she’s equally grateful for each one. But some stand out more than others.
Such is the case with Darren Vincenzo’s checks that always seem to contain some form of the number 26. “It was so funny because I kept getting these checks for $26.20,” said Stafford. “I kept saying this has got to mean something, but I wasn’t thinking running,” added Stafford. “I thought this has got to be a favorite number.” But it is about running.
The checks in the amount of $26.20 represent one dollar for each mile that Vincenzo runs when he participates in the Hartford Marathon. He just ran his ninth Hartford Marathon this year and urged family and friends to donate a dollar for each mile he ran. The money that Vincenzo raises goes to assist the many services that MACC charities provide the community, including the community pantry located on Main Street.
According to MACC’s annual report for 2012, its pantry served 1,330 households representing 15,215 individuals. There was a 14.7-percent increase in the number of households served since 2011.
For the first quarter of the MACC’s current operating year, which runs from July through June, the pantry has served more than 700 different families, according to pantry coordinator Dale Doll. That breaks out to around 1,300 individuals for August and September and over 1,400 for October. And with the increased demand for assistance, the pantry is seeing newer families come through their doors.
“The ones that are most frustrated are those middle-class people who’ve always given and now they’re out of work,” said Stafford. “They’re afraid someone is going to see them if they come. It’s a whole different face of need, and you feel bad because they’re scared to death that somebody they know is going to see them here.”
Doll said she tries to comfort the newer families who previously were the ones donating, but now are the ones accepting assistance.
“It’s a little disheartening, but you try to make them feel like you know this is just a rough time and it’s a rough economy and things will get better,” said Doll.
“It shouldn’t be embarrassing when you’re doing everything right to come and let your neighbors help you with some food, or it shouldn’t be a pride issue, but it still is for a lot of us,” said Stafford.
The MACC Community Pantry serves residents in Bolton and Manchester who are struggling. Before they can be accepted into the program, residents are screened for eligibility and Doll goes through a budget exercise with them to analyze their spending. She said after looking at most people's budgets, there is typically very little money left at the end of the month.
Doll then determines how often people can utilize the pantry which is set up like a small grocery store by design to give families – especially small children – the same feel of shopping in an actual grocery store.
“I try not to do every month,” said Doll. “Even folks that look like they have no money at all, I try not to make them completely dependent on us.”
Each family is given a grocery list based on the size of their family that establishes the quantities of each item that they can shop for. The pantry contains a wide variety of dry food, canned goods, produce, bread, milk, eggs, toiletries, and even pet food. Doll said she gives families at least one night of frozen meat.
“I think we give enough that you can feed a family a fairly healthy diet on what we give them for a week,” said Doll.
The pantry also offers assistance with people who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. “We can offer to help them with the paperwork and we can actually put it through for them,” said Doll.
“That’s another big thing, especially with people who have never been poor before, to convince them that you need to apply for this; and especially with SNAP, this is money that’s gone into the federal budget from our taxes and it brings it back into the local community. What’s wrong with that?” said Doll.
For more information on the MACC charities, visit the website www.macc-ct.org or call 860-647-0440.