by Steven M. Cliche and Michael Bielawski
MONTPELIER – From the front of the building the Trinity Methodist Church looks quiet on a Thursday morning, but in the back of the building and down in the basement, food pantry volunteers are bustling around and helping those in need gather items for their next several meals.
Even while the big news headlines have Wall Street highs and unemployment lows, locally it appears that people from all types of backgrounds and situations need the extra boost.
“We never have enough food,” pantry worker Larry Masure says. “We can always use some more because there are a huge number of families that need food.”
Masure considers the work of the pantry as a supplement to the church-led community meals that occur throughout the city. Trinity Methodist Church does their community meal on Thursdays.
Like many at the pantry, Masure works on an entirely volunteer basis. He notes that one of the issues they often encounter is that some people don’t know how to prepare the foods that the pantry offers, so they have a volunteer come in most Thursdays to help teach some basics in preparing meals.
Montpelier Food Pantry program coordinator Jaime Bedard notes, “It’s really great working with volunteers in the community, and I like hanging out at the pantry and getting to know everybody.”
Bedard, who has a background in public health, including work for food justice, the Women with Infants and Children program (WIC), and other social programs, runs the Montpelier Food Shelf under the umbrella program Just Basics. She also helps coordinate another program called Summer Meals for Kids.
When asked what some of the most common scenarios that lead people to use the pantry are, Bedard says transportation problems seem to be a major issue.
“One of the most common ones is the car breaking down. You can’t get to work and you lose income and it costs a lot of money to fix a car. I feel like transportation is really a big issue.”
She also notes that a good portion of the people the pantry serves are employed, although on occasion she will hear the lost-job story. “A lot of times it’s just people aren’t getting enough hours. It’s really hard to get full-time work and a lot of people are just patching together part-time gigs the best they can.”
Mary Roehm is both a volunteer at the pantry and a patron. When asked about the types of people who use the pantry, she says “I use the pantry, frankly, I’m retired and unemployed, so I use it for myself.”
Roehm worked as a professor of arts and ran the ceramics department at SUNY New Paltz in upstate New York.
She says one of the great things about working at the pantry is getting to see the community support that they get, including notable donations from places like Cumberland Farms and Shaw’s.
“I can go into Shaw’s and I can see what’s on sale, and I know that’s what the pantry’s going to get after the sale.”
Roehm also notes that help is coming from the Montpelier community, and that those who have the means to do so are shopping for the pantry and donating selected items that the pantry needs.
“Everybody is different,” she says of the people who utilize the pantry. “There are so many different people, you can’t just assume that there’s just one kind of person like just the homeless or something like that, it’s everyone in the community.”
She says walking around town makes it easier to realize there’s a need in the community.
“I realized that because I’m walking I see more,” she said. “When you’re driving you don’t notice because the people are invisible. Only they are not invisible. They are wonderful people from all walks of life who are just at a point where they need some help and I am very happy that we are there to help them.”