Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
It was another curious year. Pantry visits were down 10 per cent to 2,468. The number of families went down from 523 to 503. Income went down $6,056; expenses were up $10,661 to a record of $106,007. Except for administrative expenses of $2,278 for building use, phone, thank you notes etc., all money was used for purchasing food or $25 gift cards which we give once a month. The only reason clear to me is that we had fewer food contributions and our CROP Walk check ($5,000) has not arrived yet.
The Rev. Helen Oliver inaugurated the pantry as an outreach program of Christ United Methodist Church in 1981. In 32 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, businesses, schools, summer visitors and organizations. Special thanks to the many Island Club Card members who designated the pantry as their charity of choice providing us $3,662. It is a wonderful and effective effort of cooperation and caring. We receive no government food or funds.
In 10 out of the past 16 years, we spent more than we 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 accessible for people with handicaps. 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 2003 Honda Element last October. It is used to pick up and drop off purple food collection boxes and food from schools and organizations. It provides transportation for speaking engagements, fundraisers and administration of the pantry (previously 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 with expenses cared for.
In our efforts to communicate to both English and Portuguese-speaking friends, we have a translator present on most days that we are open. Our website (islandfoodpantry.org) includes our documentary created by Joshua Bernstein and his family.
We assisted 503 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 503 families, 155 came only once or twice (last year 178) and 190 came six or more times (last year the number was 212). A total of 46 indicated they were employed (last year the number was 36). There were 202 who said they were unemployed (last year the number was 151). Another 255 gave no answer. We averaged 95 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).
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, Vineyard Haven
The writer is coordinator for the Island Food Pantry.