Food Center Can Use You
Lower Makefield’s Carol Romano, 45, directs the Food Center at Morrisville Presbyterian Church, and with the help of 70 other volunteers provides food to about 14,000 people a year.
A former teacher and married mother of two boys, Carol sees the work as a physical expression of her faith. God’s work, pure and simple. But she stresses not all the volunteers are “church people.” Some serve at the center – shop for food, sort groceries, bag them, interview clients and help load groceries into their carts and cars – just because it feels good to be busy. That the busyness helps those in need makes the work meaningful.
Carol can use your help as a volunteer or financial donor. Call 215-736-4191, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Web site at www.foodcenter.mpusa.net for a list of opportunities, ranging from packing groceries to collecting them from food suppliers and interviewing clients. The center is at the church at 771 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in Morrisville.
The Food Center program is decades old. Begun by Jane Allen, a church member and social worker, it started by feeding dozens of people, then hundreds.
By the time Carol stepped up to take the reins three years ago, it was time to change the logistics of the program. Carol and other organizers got permission to move the center into the church basement, allowing them to make room for the growing number of people who turned out on Wednesdays for food and to have ample space to organize the mountains of groceries required to feed them. Volunteer Barbara Tracey recalls having to trim cabbage in a cramped hallway before the move. This new set-up is working.
When I arrived at the church last Wednesday, a volunteer, Max, was chatting with a family as he pushed groceries through the parking lot and helped them load their car. “These are working poor,” he tells me. “It’s rough.”
Each person gets enough food – meat, produce and non-perishables like peanut butter, pasta and tuna fish- for three days. It’s to supplement the food they can afford on their own.
The place was bustling, but volunteers said the pace was slow. It was the first of the month, government checks were in hand and so people were meeting their own needs. In the weeks to come, the larders would start to go bare. A client can only visit once a month, so people are careful to use the center wisely.
About 85 percent of the clients are from New Jersey, the other 15 percent are from this side of the river. Food comes from Philabundance, the Mercer Street Friends and Aldie markets. The local Acme, Giant, Centre Fruit Gourmet, Pizza Hut and bagel stores also donate their extras. On Wednesday, that meant clients could choose potatoes, cantaloupe, pineapple and an assortment of baked goods.
Volunteer Linda Faulkner, who keeps inventory, says measuring how much fresh produce to accept at the center each week is a tough call. No one wants to be stuck with fresh fruits or vegetables that go unused.
Clients range from seniors to young men and women caring for small children.
Carol said she’s moved by clients who offer to volunteer. On Wednesday, Wiley, a longtime visitor to the center, was doing his part helping others get their groceries packed and out the door. He worked cheerfully alongside church volunteers, at one point using hand signs to communicate with a young Latino couple to see whether they had a car or would be pushing groceries home back over the bridge.
“Wiley overheard me say I needed more help, and he said he’d like to volunteer,” said Carol who greeted several clients by name as they entered the center. Her goal is to keep the works organized and friendly – and it appears she’s succeeded.
Her hope is that more people will sign on to keep “a good local mission” going smoothly. There are opportunities on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays to help with different aspects, from shopping for groceries to sorting, packing and connecting them with clients. Do it as an expression of your faith, or just because it feels right. Either way, folks are being fed.
Kate Fratti’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.