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WILSON – A new food pantry serving residents of the community is slowly growing in clientele and donations, helping fill a void created when a former, long-standing resource closed its doors in the village nearly two years ago.

The new Wilson Community Food Pantry, accessed through the rear entrance of St. Brendan-on-the-Lake Church at 359 Lake St., serves clients from 4 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to noon every third Saturday.

“We give them the dignity of shopping for their food,” said Janet Hoffman, pantry administrator. “We follow guidelines for eligibility, but we never turn anyone away.”

Hoffman said participants must provide photo identification and proof of residency and income.

“We encourage people to come here and get the food they need to get them over the hump,” she said. “They only come here once a month. There should be no stigma to using the food pantry. Everyone has contributed to society, and now it’s time for the community to give back. When these people get back on their feet, we ask that they donate to the pantry to help the next people.

“These are the working poor – they all have income, just not enough,” said the retired nurse. “It’s the economics of the times. We have many new people here who have never been to a food pantry before and never expected to be here.”

Hoffman said the amount of food a shopper is allowed to choose depends on the size of the person’s family. And, thanks to the donations of two freezers and a large refrigerator/freezer, patrons have access to more than nonperishables.

The dozen volunteers who operate the new pantry depend solely on donations of food or money to purchase food, she said. Most donations are nonperishables, and Hoffman supplements these with fresh milk, eggs and other items that she purchases once a month.

“And everything we take in is given away,” she noted.

They pantry has relied on the Food Bank of Western New York for training in how to set up this endeavor, and they visited Ransomville’s food pantry to observe how they operate, but the Wilson Food Pantry, which opened in November, is independent in its operation.

“We attended a class that the Food Bank held on how to start up a food pantry, and the people in Ransomville were very kind and supportive,” she said.

Wilson’s Country Roads Caring Neighbors Food Pantry closed in April 2011 after decades of service when its director retired and no replacement could be found. At the time of its closing, it was serving up to 74 households and 170 individuals per month. In December of that same year, Ransomville’s Care and Share Community Services opened in the Ransomville Free Methodist Church, welcoming those in need from Wilson.

The idea for a new pantry in Wilson grew from discussions among members of Wilson’s ecumenical council, notably through the efforts of Rev. Judith Lee of St. John’s Episcopal Church and Rev. Stephen Hay of Wilson’s First Baptist Church, Hoffman said. Rev. Jozef Dudzik offered unused space at St. Brendan’s and his church pays the electric bills.

“All of the area churches are involved and collect food at their events for us and share donations with us,” she said. “The Wilson Lions Club, the Wilson Fire Company, the Wilson School District, the town and village and just the community as a whole have been very generous.”

“I really commend the organizers,” said Town Supervisor Joseph Jastrzemski. “The need is greater now than ever before. It was a sad day when our food pantry closed, and it was generous of Ransomville to allow our people to go there, but some found it difficult to get to Ransomville. I commend Janet Hoffman and everyone involved. This is a blessing.”

Likewise, Bernard Leiker, deputy mayor of the Village of Wilson, said, “It’s really exciting to see the community, once again, step up to help others. This is something we really appreciate.”

Anyone wishing to donate may leave nonperishables at the food pantry from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Anyone wishing to make monetary donations or volunteer or to learn more about eligibility may contact Hoffman at 751-0165.

email: niagaranews@buffnews.com