To the Editor:
It was another curious year. Our Pantry visits totaled 2,405 — similar to last year. The number of families served were 505 — similar to last year. Our income went from $92,019 to $96,589. Our expenses were down from a record of $106,007 to $84,060. Except for administrative expenses of $2,278 for building use, phone, thank-you notes, etc., all money was used for purchasing food or $25 gift cards which we give once a month.
Rev. Helen Oliver inaugurated the Pantry as an outreach program of Christ United Methodist Church in 1981. In 33 years, it has expanded from a one-person effort to a ministry including over 70 volunteers. The Pantry has been supported by all the faith communities on the Island, the Vineyard Committee on Hunger, by Islanders, businesses, schools, summer visitors, and organizations. Special thanks to the many Island Club Card members who designated the Pantry as their charity of choice, providing us $3,812. It is a wonderful and effective effort of cooperation and caring. We receive no government food or funds.
The Oak Bluffs School brought over 100 bags of food. The 2nd graders collect from the rest of the school and use the collection as a counting exercise. This was the 25th year of gathering items for the Food Pantry. In the last few years The Edgartown School has made a major effort at collecting food. All the other schools also share in this community effort.
In 10 out of the past 17 years, we spent more than we received. Our Endowment Fund covered the shortages. These funds were given in memory of Kevin Kennedy, Daniel Alisio, and Sayan Kasem. Our goal is to maintain the original gift and use the growth in the endowment for income shortages or special projects as we did in making our entryway handicapped accessible. Hopefully, others will include the Island Food Pantry in their wills so we might meet future difficult periods for our island neighbors.
In our efforts to communicate to both English and Portuguese speaking friends, we have a translator present on most days that we are open. Our web site, islandfoodpantry.org, includes our documentary created by Joshua Bernstein and his family.
We assisted 505 families representing nearly 1,000 people on the Vineyard, including at least 250 children. In addition, granola bars were provided to all the public schools for breakfast supplements. Of the 505 families, 168 came only once or twice (last year 155) and 209 came 6 or more times (last year 190). Sixty-four indicated they were employed (last year 46), while 251 stated they were unemployed (last year 202). We averaged 93 visits a week.
Persons can come to the Pantry once every two weeks on Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 2 to 4 pm from mid-October to mid-April. Emergencies are responded to throughout the year when people call the Pantry number, 508-693-4764.
The Pantry has no paid staff. All gifts provide food for the Island community. A contribution is made to the Church to help with the cost of heat, light, and garbage removal. Our administrative costs including hundreds of thank-you notes are 4 percent of our income. We have an advisory board, and our books are audited each year. For the wonderful cooperation of the Church and the community, I am sincerely thankful. Best of all, our volunteers have worked hard and kept a positive attitude. I am grateful to be a part of such a caring community.
For more information, contact the Food Pantry at P.O. Box 1874 Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, 508-693-4764.