Food pantry looks for lending hands

by Town Reminder

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – An influx of new clients at the South Hadley Neighbors Helping Neighbors [NHN] Food Pantry has the group seeking additional volunteers.
“They’re giving back to their community,” said NHN Food Pantry Executive Director Deb Carpenter of volunteer efforts. “You pay it forward. It’s like doing a good deed.”
The pantry currently serves approximately 200 families in town, but there are at least 600 individuals in need of food assistance.
“There are all kinds of jobs available, said Carpenter.
Volunteers should be at least 16 years old and willing to work on Wednesdays or Saturdays during pantry hours. Wednesday hours are 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. and 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday hours are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Volunteers are needed during the Wednesday evening shift to pull groceries off the pantry shelves to complete orders, to stock the shelves when goods arrive, and to sort the non-perishables on the back room shelves.
Greeters are sought to offer a friendly face to clients at the door. Cleaning crews are needed to tidy up the area.
“There are no fifty-pound bags of things you have to lug,” said Carpenter. “It’s cans of soup, a pound of pasta, a pound of rice.”
Stocking jobs include sorting the food by type, date and making sure it’s not past its expiration date.
“If you have a good heart, then you should want to help people. Especially the ones that are in need,” said Carpenter. “This is a helping handout to the community. People are struggling today and they really are. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It seems to be more and more people coming into the pantry.”
Currently, the NHN Food Pantry has a total of 25 volunteers. But not all of them are equally active.
“I ask people to come down, take a look around and see how we operate,” said Carpenter. “Come get a tour. See if it’s something that might fit into your lifestyle.”
Interested volunteers should contact the NHN Food Pantry at (413) 530-8240. Volunteer coordinator Linda English will take their information and set up a tour.
Volunteering is not an extensive process, or particularly time consuming. Those willing to offer their time choose the hours they donate.
“If you can only do a few hours, then you can only do a few hours,” said Carpenter. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity. It’s a neighborhood pantry, so you’re seeing your neighbors that you’d see on a Sunday or any day going to the library. You’re not helping strangers.”
Throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, the NHN Food Pantry gave out 170 complete turkey diners, including vegetables, cranberry sauce and even the pan in which to cook the turkey. Lenox employees opted to give their company turkeys to the food pantry.
The need for food pantry assistance continues to grow. To volunteer at the South Hadley Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry, call (413) 530-8240.