This Thursday, 193 Monroe families who have fallen upon hard economic times will still be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast thanks to the generosity of their neighbors. Donations of turkeys and non-perishable food to the Monroe Food Pantry were rolling in by the truck, car and minivan loads leading up to the holiday, according to Dir. Wendy Jolls.
"Considering we've just survived Hurricane Sandy and had a snowstorm, I can't tell you how I feel about the community of Monroe," Jolls said Tuesday. "I'm just amazed at how wonderful they are. It's amazing."
The food pantry had donation boxes outside the polls on Election Day. "That was successful," Jolls said. "We're doing it again next year."
But it was private donations and food drives by churches, organizations and community groups that really filled the Monroe Food Pantry's shelves this year.
"Fawn Hollow showed up yesterday with over 700 pounds of food," Jolls said of one of the town's elementary schools.
Gaffneys' Goulish House, an annual event held by the Gaffney family at their Barn Hill Road home in October, stood out to Jolls. The cost of admission to the haunted house is a canned good for the Monroe Food Pantry.
"Shari Gaffney came here with a minivan loaded to the top and her husband had a pickup truck loaded with food," Jolls recalled. "And two more cars were loaded with food."
Another Halloween fundraiser for the pantry was Trunk or Treat, held in the Masuk High School parking lot.
The Stepney Volunteer Fire Department's food drive also brought in a haul of donations, according to Jolls. "That was fantastic," she said.
Two donations were made on Saturday by the Monroe Newcomers & Neighbors Club, whose members collected food donations outside Stop & Shop on Monroe Turnpike.
The pantry has received help from town churches like United Methodist, Monroe Congregational, St. Peter's Episcopal and St. Jude Church, as well as Beth El.
"An architectural firm dropped off a trunk full of food yesterday, including several turkeys," Jolls said. "A group that does baskets showed up yesterday. There are so many groups, I can't keep track of it all."
There has also been $550 in financial assistance, including $300 from Bank Of America through the United Way and $250 in private donations.
'A False Sense of Security'
Jolls has been director of Monroe Food Pantry since August, when she said it served about 180 families. The climb in demand to 193 includes four new families added just last week.
Some of the spike can be attributed to people who have seasonal jobs and do not need the food pantry year-round, according to Jolls.
"We're there to offset, it's not to provide them with everything. We can't afford to do that," she said.
Three meals a day for each family member added up to over 5,400 meals a week in October, Jolls said, adding the average for November is already higher.
"We go through a ton of food. We have several very large families," she said. "The pantry is actually in very good shape right now, because everybody's been donating. But after we're done shopping for the holiday, we'll be in need again."
Even though the pantry took in all that food, Jolls estimates that it will be gone by early January. In fact, she said the enormous donation from the Gaffney family is already gone.
People are in the giving spirit during the holidays, but Jolls said donations to food pantries typically fall off after December.
"We will be looking to do events to raise awareness about the pantry to get donations and to get people to volunteer," she said. "We will be working on all of that in 2013, because it's not something that just happens at this time of year. People need food all year long."
Right now, Jolls feels overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community.
"We at the Monroe Food Pantry are very grateful for everyone’s generosity," she said. "We're looking forward to 2013 and wishing everybody a happy holiday season and a very good New Year."