These organizations could not run, however, without volunteers like Pat Lovelace and donations from the town. Lovelace, who was a teacher in Guilford for 35 years, started volunteering after some encouragement from a fellow parishioner at Zion Episcopal Church.
Lovelace took some time to tell North Branford Patch what it takes to keep the food banks running and organized.
North Branford Patch: How did you get involved with the North Branford food bank?
Pat Lovelace: Once I retired, I started working more and more. Mary, who was one of the founding people, had some problems with her eyes, so she asked me to take over some of the day to day activities. Fran Murphy came along to help after Joe Taste passed away, so we’ve always got people volunteering to help out anytime someone else can’t anymore. We’re up to 20 and 25 volunteers in North Branford every week, so it has grown with the economic problems in the area.
North Branford Patch: What do enjoy most about working in North Branford?
Lovelace: I really can’t say enough about the generosity of the people of North Branford. The football or hockey team helps carry in the boxes of donations during the town-wide food drive in October and April. The high school’s cheerleaders just recently held a drive for us. Once a month, people will take food to senior housing for those who can’t make it out.
North Branford Patch: How do other organizations in town contribute?
Lovelace: We really appreciate the North Branford Congregational Church letting us use their space. The Rotary Club, the Women’s Club and the churches donate constantly. There’s also boxes at the library and Community Center. Lynn Riordan of Matt’s Mission had a box set up at the Big Y that people can fill. It’s a wonderful community effort. We do not belong to the Connecticut Food Bank, so all the food comes from local donations, which is really kind of special to us. The town is so generous, they really keep us going. In the summer, Dudley Harrison will come bring us fresh vegetables, we have a cooler for that.
North Branford Patch: What is the food bank currently in need of?
Lovelace: We need things like cereal, potatoes, rice, jello and cake mix, Hamburger Helper and paper goods like paper towels and toilet paper. We also need things like shampoo, toothpaste and soap. We have tons of canned goods, but whatever we get, we use anyways. There’s a Community Dining Room program in Branford that cooks meals for shut ins and we share with them if we have any extra. Basically it’s the staples we give out that help so much.
North Branford Patch: What is a day in the life of a food bank volunteer like?
Lovelace: Basically we stock the shelves with the food. We have to check all the dates on the food that comes in, we stock the storage room and then replenish the front shopping room. Fran has it so organized and labeled, we have a system. People are allowed two bags of food, maybe a little more for families. When the people come in, because we have so many people, we bring two families or two people in at a time with workers to pick out what they want. We make a list of what has been taken and what we need and put it on the box at Big Y.
North Branford Patch: How can people get help if they're in need?
Lovelace: They just need to show that they’re residents of North Branford. There’s no paperwork showing need because there are some people who are working but just can't make end’s meet. There’s also quite a few senior citizens that come in. They’re so appreciative, I can’t even express how appreciative they are. Lately we’ve gotten families with four children. We just try to make them feel welcome and comfortable. It’s hard to come in to begin with.
North Branford Patch: Would you say that you’ve seen an influx in people coming to the food bank over the last 10 years?
Lovelace: Oh, yes, there is an influx in people coming in, but also an influx in people donating. The police department did a Fill-a-Cruiser Day and we got so much food. It was wonderful, it was a great help to us. Every time I’ve needed some help, new people have come forward.
North Branford Patch: Are there any forthcoming events we should know about?
Lovelace: Twice a year we have a dinner, one in October at the Zion Episcopal Church and one in April at the North Branford Congregational Church. We work together to put on these dinners and the money goes toward restocking things we really need as well as gift cards for Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving, which really helps out during the holidays. It’s a nice community effort. We always have a pineapple cake for April and apple crisp for October, so it has become a little tradition over the last eight or nine years.
The Northford Food Bank is open Fridays, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and the North Branford Food Bank is open Fridays, 1 to 2:30 p.m. For more information on donating or volunteering, Lovelace can be reached at 203-710-5327.