It was a curious year at the Island Food Pantry. One day we had 12 visits; another day we had 89 visits. We had eight per cent fewer families, yet with 2,740 visits for the year — the same number of visits as last year. The pantry posted a record income of $98, 075 and record expenditures of $95,345.
The Rev. Helen Oliver inaugurated the Island Food Pantry as an outreach program of Christ United Methodist Church in 1981. In 31 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, schools, businesses, summer visitors and organizations. It is a wonderful and effective effort of cooperation and caring. We receive no government food or money.
Our income has increased by $2,730 over last year. We spent $2,390 more on food than last year. Nine out of the past 15 years, we spent more than we have 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.
We received a grant from Bank of America for $20,000 (not part of the above statistics) to help enable the pantry to acquire a vehicle. It would be used to pick up and drop off purple food collection boxes and food from schools and organizations. It would provide transportation for speaking engagements, fundraisers, and administration of the pantry (until now provided by the coordinator). This perk will enable the pantry to find a volunteer coordinator in the coming years to work the quarter-time job with no salary, but expenses cared for.
In our efforts to communicate to both English and Portuguese-speaking friends, we have a translator most days we are open and we maintain a Web site (islandfoodpantry.org) which includes our documentary created by Joshua Bernstein and his family.
We assisted 523 families representing nearly 1,000 people on the Vineyard, including at least 200 children. In addition, granola bars were provided to all the public schools for breakfast supplements. Of the 523 families, 178 came only once or twice (last year the number was 160) and 212 came six or more times (last year the number was 227). Among those 36 indicated they were employed (last year the number was 50), 151 stated they were unemployed, and 324 gave no answer regarding employment. We averaged 105 visits a week.
People can come to the pantry once every two weeks on Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. from mid-October to mid-April. Emergencies are responded to throughout the year when people call the pantry number (508-696-4764). A survey of clients during the first two weeks in April indicated over 90 per cent are happy with how the pantry operates and appreciated its support.
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. 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.
Armen Hanjian is coordinator of the food pantry. Donations may be sent to P.O. Box 1874. Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.