Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rotary Stocks Food Pantry Shelves in Howard Beach

By Patricia Adams

Chants of “Move That Bus” have become very familiar to audiences of the popular ABC television show, Extreme Home Makeover. This Saturday, shoppers at Waldbaum’s on Crossbay Boulevard were privy to a chant all their own as pleas to “Stuff That Bus” rang out in the parking lot of the supermarket.

The charity event hosted by the Southwest Queens Rotary was organized by the club President Frances Scarantino who wanted to help replenish dwindling supplies in the food pantry at the Our Lady of Grace Ministry of Care Services.

A colorfully decorated school bus, donated for the day by the Logan Bus Company, remained parked in the store’s lot from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. “The idea was to fill the bus with non-perishable items and stock the pantry shelves for the upcoming holiday season,” Scarantino told The Forum. The Rotary donates to the pantry on a monthly basis but wanted to do something special for this holiday season.

“Times are really hard for everyone,’ acknowledged Scarantino, “and the pantry is just getting so many more families that depend on them that it’s almost impossible to keep up with the demand.”

The Howard Beach community really turned out to help as shoppers continued to drop food off in a steady stream throughout the day. By the end of the event, $200 was raised in cash and dozens of boxes were continually loaded onto the successfully stuffed school bus.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the bus left to return to OLG where pantry coordinators Jeanie Ruvolo and Kathy Pascarella waited anxiously with volunteers to see the day’s haul. Smiles were plentiful when the bus rolled up and opened its doors, revealing hundreds of cans, boxes of cereal, pasta, sugar, flour, gravy and other non-perishable items to stock the bare shelves.

The pantry staff was worried that the drastically low food supply would stop them from feeding neighborhood families for Thanksgiving. “This last month we checked our figures over and over because we could not believe how many families had come for help this month,” said Ruvolo.

Organizers were in total shock when after reviewing records they saw that they had assisted more than 600 families in the last month, up from just over 400 in the prior month. “This response is just what we needed. It never fails to amaze you that just when you think people won’t be able to help, they show up in full force and give whatever they can. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.”

As the holiday season gets closer we urge our readers to participate in similar events throughout our readership area. Ongoing efforts include food drives sponsored by local elected officials. Contact the offices of Assemblyman Mike Miller at 718-805-0950 and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer at 718-383-9076 for more information on how you can help feed the hungry.

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