BELMAR, NJ — Every Monday and Thursday morning like clockwork, the “Food Pantry/Clothes Closet” sign is placed outside at the Seventh Avenue entrance of the Belmar Community Center.
Inside, a small corps of volunteers stands ready to welcome anyone who needs a bag of groceries, an outfit for a work interview, pajamas for a growing toddler and even just a bit of conversation to brighten the day.
Although the former First United Methodist Church no longer occupies the building, its pantry and closet shop continues to serve the community from several neatly organized rooms on the community center’s first floor.
“We are here to help those in need in our community. That is our goal,” said Clothes Closet volunteer Dorothy Theilen, who doesn’t take a formal title but graciously accepts the role she plays in keeping the shop running smoothly.
On any given day the shop is open, she is supported by fellow volunteers, including Ann and Jim Milton and Virginia Jaime, in keeping the shelves filled with garments for adults through infants, as well as dinnerware, linens and baby items.
In the Food Pantry, lead volunteer Julie McGeehan gets as assist from Sue Finnegan, Joanne Adcock and Nancy Schreiber. As an affiliated pantry of Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean, much of their time involves ensuring that the bags of groceries they assemble for distribution meet the Neptune-based food bank’s nutritional standards.
Nonperishable food items, clothing, toys, stuffed animal and other donated items are gladly accepted from the community. Since space is at a premium, “if someone is looking to donate a large item, we ask them for a photo so that we can post it for people to see,” Theilen said.
Monetary donations are used to purchase milk for the grocery bags, as well as food items that run short but must be included in each donated supply, including peanut butter, jelly and laundry detergent.
There is no charge for anyone who comes “shopping” at either the Food Pantry or Clothes Closet, Theilen said, adding that visitors are encouraged to bring their children.
“We love to hear the giggles,” Theilen said. “And no child leaves without a toy.”
The Food Pantry and Clothes Closet, located at 503 Seventh Avenue, is open from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday and Thursday.
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