Last year, when unexpected damage to the building housing the Red Cross of Massachusetts Food Pantry on Boston’s Massachusetts Avenue threw a wrench into our food distribution operations, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, David Andre, found a way to continue providing this needed service to area families by setting up a refrigerated truck in a nearby park. And although it was pouring rain on the first day of the outdoor distribution, the intrepid team of staff and volunteers did what the Red Cross mission compelled them to do: serve.
It was no surprise then, to find the same spirit of commitment to service and to team on April 19, 2018 when nine volunteers set up the first of monthly mobile distributions in the parking lot of our former fixed pantry site in New Bedford. The day was dreary, rainy and chilling and Red Cross volunteers were dressed in rain gear or covered in plastic bags.
When asked what makes a person come out on a day like today, volunteer Paul Eluziario, a ten-year volunteer from New Bedford replied laughing, “I’ve fallen on my head a lot.” Then he continued, “No, there’s work to be done.”
This past winter, The American Red Cross of Massachusetts was notified that building in which the organization’s New Bedford food pantry operated would be sold. Like the time in Boston, David Andre had to scramble to find an alternative solution. “We didn’t want to just shut down the food pantry,” says David Andre. “We wanted to make sure that the people we have been serving here in New Bedford could still access at least some supplementary assistance.”
For the remainder of the year, the pantry will be operating as a mobile distribution site once a month in the parking lot of the Kempton Street building where the pantry used to operate.
Jim Waskiel of Fairhaven has been volunteering for the pantry for years before he convinced his wife Katharine to join in. Eventually they were joined by their grandchildren, Sadie and Noah Marchesseault, age 14 and 13 respectively. As families arrived, they hustled to hand out bags of apples, potatoes, and cabbage. When asked why they do this, Katharine, whose head was covered in a bright teal hoodie topped by a clear plastic rain poncho, jumped in and eagerly said that the group of volunteers was like a family. “We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve missed each other over the past few weeks.” Fellow volunteer Alison Miranda, added, “Being here, helping these people giving out great food is why we’re here. It’s the glue that keeps us together.
Previously, on any given day of (indoor) distribution, the New Bedford Food Pantry would expect to see 800 families. On the first day of the mobile distribution, they prepared for 650. Fifty showed up, most likely a result of the inclement weather and the assumption that the pantry was no longer operating.
Andre says that the mobile pantry serves to ensure that those who continue to need supplementary food assistance can access it.
Most of the visitors there to pick up food were eager to get back in their cars and away from the bone chilling rain. I caught up with Kim Campinha of New Bedford and asked her what she thought of the mobile pantry. “I’m grateful they’re still here, whether it’s inside or out. People are in need. I utilize this every month and it helps me tremendously.”
The New Bedford Mobile Food Pantry will operate on the third Thursday of every month in 2018. The address is 593 Kempton Street, entrance on Mill Street.
For more information about our programs and services, go to http://www.redcross.org/ma