TUCKERTON — In January, organizers at the Tuckerton Food Pantry were in the midst of a fundraising campaign to build a new facility. Now a larger building has been made available for the pantry rent-free until the project is complete.
In the coming weeks, volunteers will move food, supplies and furniture across Main Street to a storefront in the Village Shops plaza, said Marla Hoon, co-coordinator of the pantry.
The Village Shops was purchased recently by Tony Chen, and the pantry will pay utilities at the site but no rent for nine months until an addition is complete at the former Tuckerton Public Works garage, she said.
The organization pays $500 per month to rent the small space in the rear of the Sea Cure Moving Co., Hoon said.
Hoon leaned against shelving for canned goods that was donated and built by Tuckerton Lumber Co. She said volunteers will move the shelving across the street. The pantry has about 100 volunteers.
“We’ve been here for four years and we’ve really outgrown this place,” Hoon said as volunteers moved in and out of the food pantry.
In the past two years, visitors to the pantry have increased by as much as 13 percent, Hoon said. The pantry has serviced as many as 535 families in one month, and Hoon said many are losing their jobs, homes and vehicles.
“Over at the Village Shops, we will have a larger facility with a waiting area for clients so they don’t have to wait outside when the weather is bad. It will have easier access and more parking,” she said.
The pantry’s new fruit and vegetable garden is also located at the Village Shops plaza. This is the first year the pantry is tending a garden and distributing the produce at the facility, said in-house pantry gardener Greg Gemski, 71.
Saturday, Gemski sorted and tossed spoiled vegetables while touting the bounty of the garden’s first season — tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini. The raspberries didn’t do well this year and the tomatoes needed some additional work, but he has a plan.
“Next year, I want to stake the tomatoes the right way. I’m planning now what I’m going to have in that garden next year,” Gemski said. Some of the other amenities at the new facility will include additional refrigeration for food items, restrooms, heating and air conditioning.
The pantry, which is run by the Greater Tuckerton Ministerial Association (made up of seven churches), has stayed in operation over the years because of volunteers such as sisters Barbara Haggerston and Pat Gale.
“They’re so dependable. I can always count on them to be here,” Hoon said.
The sisters, who live in two local senior retirement communities, said they have been volunteering for several years at the pantry. Every Saturday, they pick up bread donations from the Acme grocery store in Tuckerton and bring them to the pantry.
“This is so rewarding,” Haggerston said as she organized the donated bread in a shopping cart.
“Yes, especially when a family comes in and a single mom is crying with her children because they have no food, just nothing to eat. Then I go home I open my fridge and I say, ‘Thank you, God,’” Gale said.
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