HAWTHORNE, NJ - On Saturday, September 5, volunteers from Martha’s Pantry at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Hawthorne gathered once again to distribute food and necessities to the community. This weekend, 138 people collected food, toiletries, and paper goods at the food pantry, an exceptional number considering the pantry is only open for 2 hours and staffed by 7 volunteers. Having opened in the fall of 2019, Martha’s Pantry has seen exponential growth in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic and economic upheaval brought by it. To date, this local food pantry has served more than 900 clients and, this past Saturday, broke their past record for number of people served. By the end of the month they expect to easily surpass feeding 1,000 individuals.
TAPinto Hawthorne spent the morning with Martha’s Pantry and spoke with some of their clients. A handful of people have been visiting the pantry since last year, but many clients are new since March. Prospect Park, Glen Rock, Fair Lawn, Haledon, and Midland Park, along with Hawthorne, all have residents who use the food pantry. Martha’s Pantry serves many local families with school age children, but there are also single-individual households and couples. Some clients carpool together and pick up food for their families, and some clients pick up a bag of food to deliver to homebound neighbors who can not get to the pantry during opening hours. Dads drive up to pick up for their families, grandparents pick up to deliver to their grandchildren. Neighbors bring each other when one does not own a car. Indeed, a morning at Martha’s Pantry shows a true cross-section of our community.
Members of St. Clement’s congregation volunteer their time every other week to distribute food to waiting clients. Volunteers barely have time to prepare before the wave of cars begins to file into the church’s driveway. Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, clients would be able to “shop” inside the pantry for anything they needed, however, due to the novel coronavirus the pantry has restructured. Clients are now served in a drive-through fashion with pre-packed bags of items and contactless pick up. They are asked if any additional items are needed before the next time they meet, such as laundry detergent. “Remember, we’re open again on September 19, in two weeks. Take care, we’ll see you soon!” one of the volunteers says to a client before they drive away.
Martha’s Pantry has seen great support from within their congregation as well as the surrounding community. There are often several cars who come through their drive-through to drop off bags of donations. This past Saturday, the pantry received a large donation of several boxes of food from a local couple. The volunteers thanked them profusely, smiling underneath their protective masks. Though the volunteers served their clients efficiently and without hesitation, they were visibly exhausted by the pantry’s closing. “It’s hard work, it’s a steady stream of car after car after car,” a volunteer said.
The pantry is still in need of donations so it can continue to provide for the community. Items critically in need include pasta sauce, canned meat (fish, ham, chicken, etc.), cereal, coffee, tea, shelf-stable milk and other drinks, peanut butter, snack bars, diapers, laundry detergent, and other personal hygiene items. Many of these items are not covered by assistance programs such as SNAP or WIC and thus are paid fully out-of-pocket, which can be especially difficult for many people during this time. Martha’s Pantry can also accept monetary donations at the church.
Martha’s Pantry will next be open on Saturday, September 19, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If residents are in need and not able to visit the church during these hours, a volunteer can meet them at the church by appointment or a bag can be delivered. The pantry can be reached via the church office at (973) 427-8118 or through their Facebook page.
Martha's Pantry is one of a few food pantries in Hawthorne. The borough maintains a non-perishable food pantry through the Health Department, as Mayor Goldberg has said in his twice-a-week letters to the borough.
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