Six years ago if you had asked Brookline resident Carol Daddazio if she knew that her town had an emergency food pantry, she would have said no. Hunger was a problem in other places, but certainly not here in Brookline, in the leafy neighborhoods where JFK was born, amongst the residents living in beautiful houses whose prices likely hovered in the half-a-million-dollar range.
But when she saw in the paper the call for volunteers to help out at the Brookline Emergency Food Pantry at St Paul's Episcopal Church, Daddazio decided to apply. Six years later, she's very glad she did.
"In my small, personal way I'm accomplishing something. I get back much more than I give," she said by phone, echoing a sentiment shared by many community volunteers like her.
Visitors to the food pantry--Daddazio refers to them as her "clients"--range from mothers with kids, to adults living in halfway houses, to seniors whose fixed income doesn't allow for the weekly grocery trips that most of us take for granted. One morning a week she checks in clients and stocks shelves. She has learned her clients' names and refers to them as "Mr" and "Mrs"--a small courtesy that her clients appreciate.
The pantry offers three big cupboards of canned goods, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and some frozen items. "There's a real desire for healthy food," Daddazio said. "But the single gentlemen who don't cook look for canned goods like Chef Boyardee and stew."
Many of Daddazio's clients have jobs but still can't afford the ballooning cost of fresh food. "They're not very different from you or me, except they've had different struggles. It's humbling."
While some people who have never been inside a food pantry might anticipate a grim scenario of shelves half-filled with dented cans and a clientele of people with downcast eyes, Daddazio quickly dispels that myth. "It's a busy place with a good, positive environment," Daddazio said, "the clients who come are usually upbeat and I've made friends with other volunteers. We have a good time."
The Brookline Emergency Food Pantry benefits from the generous donations of local businesses like Trader Joe's in Coolidge Corner, which delivers bread twice a week, a complete Thanksgiving dinner every year, even bouquets of flowers. Area schools sponsor food drives throughout the year. Cathy Fischer-Mueller's 8th grade class at Devotion School collected food and also paid a visit to the pantry so students could see how it operated.
Thinking local not only means supporting small businesses; it's lending a hand to your neighbor when they need it. "Some of my clients are also neighbors," Daddazio said, "It's awful to think of people being hungry, sitting down to dinner and not having enough to eat." Volunteering makes her feel a part of a supportive, caring community that helps each other out. "You're doing what you can to help your own part of the world."
To support the Brookline Emergency Food Pantry at St. Paul's Church, please consider a food or cash donation to the Feed Brookline drive. You can learn more about the drive at www.feedbrookline.org. You can also make an online donation, or donate in-person while shopping at many local businesses hosting cash collection boxe throughout Brookline.
By Jennifer Campaniolo