Town, Salvation Army team up for annual food drive

A table full of food showed just how successful last week’s food drive for the town’s Department of Social Services and the Neighbor to Neighbor food bank was. From left, Alison Brush, program coordinator for community gifts in the Department of Social Services, Salvation Army board members Maggie Klump and John Febles and the organization’s board chairman Margaret Conboy, posed by the donations. — Ken Borsuk photo

A table full of food showed just how successful last week’s food drive for the town’s Department of Social Services and the Neighbor to Neighbor food bank was. From left, Alison Brush, program coordinator for community gifts in the Department of Social Services, Salvation Army board members Maggie Klump and John Febles and the organization’s board chairman Margaret Conboy, posed by the donations.
— Ken Borsuk photo

When people think about Greenwich, ideas about residents struggling to get food on the table don’t typically come to mind. And that’s a mistake the town’s Department of Social Services and the Salvation Army are working to correct.

Fears about where the next meal will come from and people going to bed hungry are very real in town, despite Greenwich’s reputation as nothing but a haven for the rich and powerful. While Greenwich certainly is a town where many of the residents do not go wanting, some residents need help from both the town’s Department of Social Services and the local food bank, Neighbor to Neighbor.

Margaret Conboy, who serves as the Salvation Army chapter’s board chairman, said that Neighbor to Neighbor currently serves approximately 200 clients.

“You don’t think that this happens in Greenwich, but you get people all the time coming to social services who say they need assistance and when they dig deeper and talk to them they find out they actually need food and so the department will give them emergency food and then refer them to Neighbor to Neighbor,” Ms. Conboy said. “The Salvation Army is able to help out with gift cards and back-to-school supplies and backpacks and shoes.”

John Febles, a member of the board, added, “One thinks there isn’t a need at all in Greenwich, but once you scratch the surface you will find it. It’s different from a place like New York City where you see the homeless. But there absolutely is a need here. Last year there was an infestation of bed bugs and we had to get new mattresses for people and we’re out there helping people get jobs. There’s a big need in town even if you don’t see it.”

Last Thursday there was an all-day food drive held at Town Hall to benefit both agencies. The event was sponsored by town employees and the Greenwich chapter of The Salvation Army and, according to Ms. Conboy, it collected about 15 crates of food, which comes out to about 525 pounds for hungry people in the area. Although that seems like a lot, it’s actually less than in previous years. Two reasons for that, Ms. Conboy said, was the fact that the drive was in August this year when more people are on vacation than they are when it had been held in July, and the impact of Hurricane Sandy, since so much charitable giving was focused there this year.

Despite the one-day food drive being over, residents still have a chance to help. This drive will provide immediate dividends for both the town of Greenwich’s emergency food pantry and Neighbor to Neighbor, but it won’t make the need go away, so donations of both food and money are always appreciated.

According to the Salvation Army, the items most needed are cereal, Parmalat whole milk, canned tuna, canned meats, animal crackers, canned soup, canned vegetables and fruits, packaged rice, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, tomato sauce, crackers, iced tea mix, snack items, bottled juice, coffee, packaged juice for children, and baby food.

Food that spoils, like fresh fruit, meat and milk, are not recommended because of their limited shelf lives. The monetary donations that are given help make those purchases at Neighbor to Neighbor and are also used to buy gift cards to local supermarkets so people may buy those items themselves. Those looking to give are also told to not just clear out the back of their cupboards because often time that food has passed its expiration date and cannot be given to anyone in need of assistance.

Additionally, other items like toilet paper, toothpaste, paper towels, soap and shampoo are needed. Plus, Neighbor to Neighbor continues to collect clothing and linens.

“They can either donate money to the Greenwich chapter of the Salvation Army,” Ms. Conboy said. “They can send it to me at my office and we put it in an account and send it up to Hartford. Or they can donate directly to the food banks by coming to Town Hall to give to the emergency food bank in the social services office, or they can go to Neighbor to Neighbor and donate food and items.”

The need is no surprise to Alison Brush, program coordinator for community gifts in the town’s Department of Social Services. The department’s emergency food pantry is there to help residents in immediate need of food, and then the work begins connecting these clients with Neighbor to Neighbor for longer-term help.

“We refer over 200 households to Neighbor to Neighbor for supplemental food,” Ms. Brush said. “Some of the folks we help are either new clients, or they don’t have any food in their pantry and Neighbor to Neighbor is closed. We’ve seen the usage go up the last few years and in the summer our supply goes down. That’s why we do this during the summer. We need to restock our pantries and anything we can get is very much appreciated.”

Ms. Brush said that people in town are getting the message that there are residents in need of help, but noted that people still may be surprised when they hear about it.

“I think there’s always going to be a little bit of that, and that’s why we try to publicize it and get it out in the open as much as possible,” Ms. Brush said. “People need to realize that there is a need.”

Ms. Conboy said people looking to donate to the Salvation Army may reach her at 203-862-2412. Neighbor to Neighbor, which is located in the Christ Church Annex at 248 East Putnam Avenue, has hours of operation from 8:30 to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and also 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. People may also call to arrange times for delivery. More information, as well as a direct link for donations, is online at n-to-n.org.

Ms. Brush said her office, on the third floor of Town Hall, is also able to accept donations. She may be reached at 203-622-3715.

This food drive is just one of the roles that the Salvation Army plays in Greenwich. While the organization is best known for its bell ringing and collection around Christmastime, it’s not a dormant group the other 11 months of the year. It responds to emergencies like Hurricane Sandy, there’s a camp program that sends kids from all over the state to Camp CONNRI in Ashford, renter’s assistance to help people pay rent and utility bills, as well as other programs that operate year-round. Ms. Conboy said people are connected with those programs through the Social Services Department.

The Salvation Army is also always on the lookout for volunteers and people to serve on its board, as well as donations. Ms. Conboy said people who want to serve may get in touch with her.

 

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