WAYNE, NJ – Herb Schuman who has been the driving force behind the Wayne Interfaith Network Food Pantry is retiring after serving Wayne’s underprivileged community since 2012. Schuman, who leads a team of twenty-five volunteers feeds Wayne’s hungry, and took what was a small neighborhood food pantry that served twenty local families to what it is today, a food bank that feeds 126 families all here in Wayne.
“When you live in a community like this, you wouldn’t think that there are so many people going hungry,” said Schuman. “I didn’t realize it until I began working with the food pantry. There are a lot of seniors living on fixed incomes with expenses always going up. There are many people in Wayne that need assistance and when we began to understand this, we were spurred on even more with our mission.”
The WIN Food Pantry was born out of necessity following the devastating flooding in 1984. “Holy Cross Church started a food pantry for those who were dispossessed of their homes,” said Betty Singer, who has been a part of the Food Pantry from very early on. “A few years later, they decided to formalize the concept and created a coalition of churches and synagogues including Packanack Community Church and Temple Beth Tikvah as well as different service organizations to take care of people during flood times or other types of emergencies, or people in general who were hungry and needed help.”
Sometime in the early nineties, it formally became the Interfaith Food Network and all the food that was collected was stored at Packanack Community Church.
It was the back-to-back Hurricanes of Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 where the WIN Food Pantry began to get regional media recognition.
Just before Sandy, Herb Schuman, who had recently retired as General Manager of a large manufacturing company, heard from a friend that the WIN Food Pantry was looking for someone with managerial experience to help them.
“I never considered myself the sharpest tool in the shed,” said Schuman, “so I made up for it with hard work. I worked hard my whole life and when I retired, I realized I needed something to do.”
Herb met with WIN and volunteered to help. “He joined us and was given a trial by fire,” said Singer.
Hurricane Sandy hit and Herb took charge.
“He’s a fireball,” said Carol Cook, another volunteer who’s been working with the pantry from early on. “He’s always there, he’s always moving; he gets other people moving.”
Local media spoke about the WIN Food Pantry after the hurricanes, saying it “Saved the town of Wayne,” in Newspapers and on TV News. “That’s when other people found out about us and began to come to us for help,” said Schuman. “Before Hurricane Sandy, we were serving about twenty families, it quickly jumped to fifty, then eighty and today we serve one-hundred and twenty-six families. All of them are vetted by Rosemary.” Rosemary Acampora is Wayne’s Director of Welfare and she helps to make sure that all of the families are in real need.
When the excitement of the hurricanes died down, so did the barrage of donations. Schuman then put it on himself to make sure the pantry was always stocked with food. “Herb can get money out of different places that we never thought of,” said Carol. “He’ll go around town to these different places and he’ll get the money we need to keep the pantry stocked.”
Schuman negotiated with the YMCA to obtain an official home for the pantry, he convinced PC Richards and Son to donate a refrigerator so they could store and distribute fresh eggs and cheese, and coordinated food drives throughout each year to make sure the pantry is always stocked, year-round.
“He’s basically, President, Vice President, Director of Volunteers, Director of Procurement,” said Barbara Cohen, who along with Cathy Czar will be taking over Schuman’s duties. “Those are big shoes to fill,” Barbara laughed. “I think they’re size ninety-four.”
The WIN Food Pantry will once again be providing a full Thanksgiving dinner to sixty-five families this year. “The whole town comes out and we spend an afternoon packing the bags for the families at St. Timothy’s church,” said Schuman.
Each month, they provide pre-packed groceries for one hundred and twenty-six families and each bag packed is based on need. They also provide Shoprite gift cards and in the spring and fall provide Kohl’s gift cards for the children of their clients for summer sneakers, school supplies and clothes.
At last week’s Wayne Town Council Meeting, Mayor Chris Vergano gave Schuman a citation for his “tireless efforts on behalf of the WIN Food Pantry and the Township of Wayne.”
“Quite frankly, I don’t know what we’re going to do without you,” said Vergano. “Every time I’ve been at the pantry, you’ve been there. You’ve been at all of our summer concerts to collect food. You’ve been everywhere there’s been food collections, and you, my friend, are the WIN Food Pantry.”
During Schuman’s speech to the Council afterward, he thanked Councilman Al Sadowski in particular: “You helped me from the very beginning with the Scouts. You and Joe Scuralli. But, he (Sadaowski) was instrumental in getting the scouts to participate and from there I was able to get other scout troops to help.” Schuman then turned and said,” And, Councilwoman Rivera; she has helped secure some significant cash donations, and she’s been a constant friend to the pantry, and we do appreciate that.”
Schuman had a going-away/retirement party at the Gyro Grill with all of the Food Pantry volunteers in attendance. “You all will always be in my heart,” Schuman said to his team. “I will always remember the fun times we had together.”
Schuman, who is 74 years old, and his wife Emily are moving to Monroe, New Jersey to be closer to their daughter and their Granddaughter.
Singer summed up Schuman and his impact on the Food Pantry: “He appeared at a time of need. He arrived on the scene for us at a moment of crisis, when his particular talent and skills and personality were needed to bring many elements together to meet the crises of that particular era.”
The WIN Food Pantry will go on without Schuman as Cohen and Czar take over to lead the Pantry into its next chapter.
For more information about the WIN Food Pantry, please go to www.winfoodpantry.org