The food pantries at Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange and St. Joseph’s Church in Maplewood both held their Thanksgiving distributions this past weekend. Both were aided by MEND — the Essex County hunger relief network.
The OLS Food Pantry in South Orange registered more than 250 patrons for the Thanksgiving Distribution on Saturday, Nov 17. In addition to the regular weekly food package of staples, patrons received a special holiday packs that included a $15 ShopRite gift card (in lieu of a turkey), plus all the sides, fresh produce, and some special treats.
From Kate Cahill of MEND at the OLS distribution: “We try to make holidays special with festive and fresh foods, and we take extra time with each patron to learn more about their needs and lives. Today we learned that the wheelchair of one of our shut-ins was fixed and she’ll be going outside again, that the student coming to pantry for her mom who had a stroke was planning to cook a holiday dinner for her family, that a regular was missing for several weeks because her husband was shot and killed in Haiti and she had to bury him, that a young single mom arranged for a friend to pick up her package because she’s taking Saturday classes to get a better job and earn more to support her disabled son, that our favorite 86 year-old no longer is biking to pantry but getting a ride from a neighbor, that some patrons had never seen a Shop Rite gift card and didn’t know how to use it, that the young dad who’s always late because of his dialysis treatments is looking a lot better, and that some patrons want to become pantry volunteers. There are many stories we hear each week and lives we have an opportunity to touch, albeit briefly. Thank you for the support that makes this possible, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.”
Over at St. Joe’s, MEND director Robin Peacock reported:
“What a day! Special thanks to The Cassidy for providing fresh produce for 125 food pantry patrons at St. Joe’s Food Pantry in Maplewood, to our volunteers who helped distribute the fresh produce and helped inside at the pantry, and to Summit Medical Group Foundation for providing free health screenings!”
In addition Peacock reported:
– 46 bags went to seniors at Nora Gardens, the affordable senior housing apartment building on Burnett Avenue in Union.
– earlier last week, MEND hosted a frozen turkey drive and distributed 233 turkeys to 13 of its pantries, including St Joe’s (St. Joe’s pantry manager Dominick Pirozzi is pictured with the turkeys), along with socks collected by Claire Sinclair of FeedSOMany (the FB group connecting South Orange and Maplewood residents with food pantries) and feminine hygiene products donated by 28 Days.
MEND stand for “Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity.” Find out more about their work and programs at mendnj.org.
OLS photos by Matt Peyton. St. Joe’s photos by Robin Peacock.