by Kathleen Pulek, Rare Reminder, October 2, 2014
Click HERE for the full gallery of images from this event.
If Old Mother Hubbard had gone to the Rocky Hill Food Pantry last weekend, she would have found the shelves bare.
“We recently bought some basics but there’s not much on the shelves,” said Melissa Hicks, who became Human Services Director when retirement ended Mark Williams’ tenure earlier this year.
“The summer is the hardest part of the year for us, so we have to supplement with some financial donations to put the basics on our shelves. Our supply gets very low,” Hicks said of the Food Pantry, inaugurated by Williams 32 years ago.
“We have bins located in our Human Services Department in the lobby at 699 Old Main Street if people want to drop off donations. We’re open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm Monday – Friday and there’s always someone at the desk.”
The Food Pantry, which assists the homeless, the elderly who are on fixed incomes and low and middle-income singles and families, got a major boost on Sunday, Sept. 28th from the Connecticut Street Legends’ 9th Annual Benefit Car Show, held in the plaza at 825 Cromwell Avenue.
“I got to know Mark Williams, the former Food Pantry Director and he said that especially in the summer, the Food Pantry is in great need. I told him I was in the car club and we would love to do something to help,” said Rick Camilleri, who along with fellow town resident/club member Kevin Matthews took ownership of the event at its inception.
“Nine years ago, Kevin and I brought up the idea of a car show to benefit the Food Pantry for a club vote, and now each year when the vote comes up, it’s unanimous to put on the show. That’s the great thing about the Street Legends. We do about eight car shows a year and half of them are strictly benefits to help the communities out.“We reached out to the owner of Michel Angelo’s, and to other local merchants in this plaza like Elizabeth’s Restaurant and Platinum Hair Studio and they were not only gracious enough to let us use the parking lot, but they also donated prizes for the raffle.”
The club’s raffle received an outpouring of close to 50 donated items and gift cards from merchants like West Side Pizza, West Side Market, Bob’s Coffee Shop, Jake’s Burgers and Stop & Shop. Michael Angelo’s, a sponsor of the Connecticut Street Legends, also donated sheet pizzas for sale during the show, which raised $160.00 – $200.00 for the Food Pantry.
Joseph “Butch” Surwilo, owner of Mr. Trophy and his wife Barbara, the former mayor of Rocky Hill, have been ardent Street Legends and community supporters over the years, again donating the 25 trophies presented to the category winners.
“It’s not even 11:00 am and already half of the lot is filled. This show has gotten so big, growing from 30-40 cars to over 200 that we’ve had to start using the lot next door,” said Camilleri. “Once we fill this lot, we don’t want to turn anyone away so Subway was kind enough to give us use of the first row of their parking lot.
“People don’t realize that even in a community like Rocky Hill, there’s a great need for the assistance that the Food Pantry provides,” pointed out Camilleri, who proudly announced that cash donations from the first seven benefit car shows raised more than $10,000.00. “We’ll raise $2,000.00 – $3,000.00 today and a truckload of food.”
Hicks noted that the Food Pantry, which is funded solely by donations, “is run on an as needed basis. We have some residents who have used the Food Pantry long term, every three weeks, while others who have been laid off or are unemployed may have a short-term need for assistance.” Residents have access to the Food Pantry every three weeks, with a single person allotted one bag, while two or more people in a family are allotted two bags.”
The demand for Food Pantry assistance in Rocky Hill has increases yearly by about 25 families. In 2013, 186 families were helped. Through September of 2014, over 200 town families are actively using the Food Pantry on a regular basis.
“We usually have non-perishable staples like peanut butter and jelly, soups, crackers, juice boxes and snacks for the kids, beans, canned vegetables, canned fruits and cereals on hand,” Hicks continued. “The Rocky Hill Youth Services has a community garden in the summer, so for a short time, we get fresh produce.
“We have a lot of elderly and disabled on fixed incomes who use the Food Pantry. The state has cut back on SNAP, which is the food stamp program. We see people who are unemployed and parents who are doing their best. We also see people come in when someone gets ill, is on disability or on short-term workman’s compensation because things become very difficult for them.
“I would like to see us grow so that we’re able to offer bread and perishable items, but we don’t have refrigeration. I would like to be able to stock loaves of bread and other things that would last a few weeks on the shelves for families because we find that they really need that. Paper products like toilet paper and tissues can’t be purchased through the SNAP program. There’s always a high demand for cereals and peanut butter and jelly as well as personal care items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoos and conditioners. A lot of the households with kids have gluten or peanut allergies so things to pack lunches are always needed,” according to Hicks.
“The Street Legends and West Side Market are probably our biggest benefactors. They are pretty much what sustain us and get us through to holiday times. I don’t know if we could keep the Food Pantry year round if it weren’t for this event and West Side Market.
“We are so thankful for the support from organizations like the Street Legends, local merchants and town residents. We do our very best in the on-going process to get families what they need for nutrition and what they need in their homes to make ends meet,” said a grateful Hicks.