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Local Food Pantries: How You Can Help Or Receive Help

Neighboring food pantries share how you can serve -- or be served -- this holiday season.

The Blessing Room, Calvary Christian Church, 47 Grove St., Lynnfield:

The Blessing Room currently serves about 50 people in need with non-perishables, diapers as well as gently used and new clothing. Many recipients are unemployed, disabled, elderly, or unable to work.

To donate, write a check to Calvary Christian Church c/o the Blessing Room; drop off food in the drop-off baskets; organizations, such as Mission of Deeds, can help out, or if a ministry interview has already been completed with Executive Pastor Jamie E. Booth, of Peabody, become a volunteer. Clothes must be in good condition, and food can't be expired.

According to Associate Pastor Charles Rukwaro, overseer of the ministry, of Peabody, last year, the church gave out 100 turkeys during Turkey Outreach, but this year, they gave out 212, almost double that number [pictured]. Ten volunteers who are church members run the room biweekly Friday from 11 a.m. to noon, and between services on Sunday from 10-10:30 a.m. and noon to 12:30 p.m.

According to Volunteer Rob Heil, of Plaistow, N.H., there were 25 recipients last Thursday and five Sunday.

"This is the most need I've seen ever since I started here a couple years ago," Heil told Lynnfield Patch. "People are flat-out broke, and they tell us how grateful they are. The economy's really doing a lot on people."

The church has three floors, but Rukwaro explained the location.

"It's on the lower level," Rukwaro stated. "It's close to KidZone. To sign up, go to the Blessing Room, and fill out a form that lists sources of support and/or income."

For information, visit http://www.lynnfield-ccc.org/#/ministries/blessing-room, or call the church office at 781-592-4722.

Wakefield Interfaith Food Pantry, 467 Main St., Wakefield:

Wakefield Interfaith Food Pantry requires a Wakefield proof of residency, such as a driver's license, Massachusetts ID, or a utility bill with address listed. Wakefield residents can visit twice a month as an emergency or supplemental food supply.

Director Maureen Miller of Wakefield noted many clients are seasonal employees, such as snowplowers or landscapers, or those with minimum wage jobs [pictured]. Others are disabled or unemployed. For example, a single person making $20,665 annually would qualify for this assistance. There is an even distribution of families and singles with a 50:50 ratio.

There are 40 volunteers at this organization. The pantry is seeking able-bodied volunteers who can lift multiple heavy cartons of food. The Keurig company in Reading loads the truck and drives to Greater Boston Food Bank in downtown Boston, where the pantry receives a discount for its non-profit status. Harriet Winsor of Wakefield has been a volunteer since 1986 back when it orginated in the Baptist church [pictured]. Over the years, Winsor noted the volume has increased. 

"We're people helping people," she told Wakefield Patch. "In all the time I've worked here, we've only turned down one person, and that was in the Baptist church location. We provide a very basic service, and helped 30 families this morning."

Since July, the pantry has provided for 384 families, averaging 100 households a week, suggesting clients come in bimonthly. For the holidays, it hands out baskets for Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving.

As noted in the name, the pantry is supported by all congregations and often partner with to include a monthly dinner, including St. Joseph's, where Miller works as an Administrator.

To donate, drop off food in the box at the Americal Civic Center; run a food drive; visit the volunteer section of the Web site, www.WIFoodPantry.org, and join the email list to see opportunities available, or mail a check to Wakefield Food Pantry, P.O. Box 1624, Wakefield, MA 01880. Hours are Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m.

"The Wakefield community has been unbelievable," Miller said. "Ninety five percent of Wakefield volunteers donate either time, money or food. Our most-needed items are non-perishable stew with meat in it, protein-based peanut butter, tomato products for pasta, and tuna."

Haven from Hunger, 71 Wallis St., Peabody:

Haven From Hunger is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (closed Wednesdays and weekends), where those in need can fill shopping bags. To apply, provide proof of residency in either Lynnfield, Peabody or Salem, positive ID, and income information. Registration will take place January 1. Those bags are full of fruit, vegetables, and boxed milk -- having a choice of produce, prepared meals, desserts, or misc.

Forty Lynnfield, Peabody and Salem residents can also have a sit-down dinner at 5 p.m. four nights a week.

Theresa DeStefano, of Peabody, administrative assistant, wanted to take the time to thank businesses that regularly give their resources: Shaw's; Hannaford's; Stop n Shop; Regina Pizza; Brother's Deli in Danvers; Brooksby Farm and Village in Peabody; Bio Marine in Gloucester; Walgreen's; Trader Joe's; BJ's; Target; Costco, U.S. Food Service; DiLuigi Meats in Peabody; Hans Kissle in Haverhill; and the Greater Boston Food Bank in downtown Boston. Besides those, there are also countless churches, religious groups and civic organizations, including but not limited to the Lynnfield Post Office/Rotary Club and Lahey Clinic in Peabody. To make it inclusive, banks and private foundations also have given generous grants.

"They keep us going all year long," DeStefano told Lynnfield Patch. "The outpouring from the community is tremendous, but what we're really in need of is money."

Since the stockroom and dinner table share the same space, the Haven is looking to upgrade to a larger building, as part of their Capital Campaign.

Alyse Barbash, of Middleton, executive director of Haven from Hunger, said of the population it provides for, "Everyone is just a paycheck away. It doesn't matter where you live. Sometimes you just need it. You bought a house, and just lost your job" [pictured]. She added it serves 100 people a day and 400 a week.

Christmas Dinner will be served at noon, which will feature Christmas carols; ham and turkey with the fixings, and gifts to unwrap Tuesday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day.

To donate, drop food off between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the days listed above, call 978-531-1530, or visit the Web site, http://havenfromhunger.org/index.php?q=civicrm/contribute/transact&reset=1&id=1, to give a monetary donation.

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