Margaretville Food Pantry reopened

By Pauline Liu 
The flood-damaged Margaretville Food Pantry reopened on December 5, thanks to the helping hands of community volunteers. But in the weeks that followed, there was still the problem of getting enough food to feed the needy. Last week, the pantry was finally restocked and ready to serve the community it has helped for about 25 years. “Now, we have a lot of food,” said volunteer Marc Osterweil, a retired computer programmer from Margaretville.

Word about the pantry spread quickly. “The phone was ringing like crazy,” said Dee Iommi, a retired nurse, who’s been one of the pantry’s two coordinators since 1995. “I’m very appreciative for the donations,” said coordinator Josie Stern, who’s a volunteer at the pantry since it first opened.

Many twists and turns
How the food arrived is a story in itself. A large shipment came from Delaware Opportunities in Hamden, which has a grant to supply food to places like the pantry. The organization sent 47 cases of nonperishable items. “A school in Pine Plains sent 10 very large, very heavy boxes of food and we met them in Kingston,” said Stern.

One of the teachers, Erin Essery, from the Cold Spring Early Learning Center in the Pine Plains Central School District delivered the food herself. The school held a food drive for the pantry, after someone on staff read about it on the flood recovery website, rebuild123.org.

Other organizations and businesses that donated food include Dollar General, the Margaretville Telephone Company, HealthAlliance, and United Parcel Service workers based in Poughkeepsie.
For the past 11 years, the pantry has been run from inside a three-car garage behind Rettew Engineering and Surveying on Main Street in Margaretville. The pantry’s coordinators explained that it’s owned by surveyor, Rob Allison, who lets them use one of the garage spaces for free. They put up some storage shelves and moved in a refrigerator and some chairs.

The flood filled the pantry with four feet of water and destroyed much of the space. Volunteers turned out to help save the pantry. One of those volunteers was Rev. Richard Dykstra of the Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church in Roxbury. The pastor is also the treasurer of the Interfaith Council, which provided $300 to help pay for new sheet rock and other new materials. “We were able to tear off the damaged sheet rock, sanitize the space and buy new carpeting,” Rev. Dykstra said

According to Stern and Iommi, the pantry feeds about 25 needy families annually. It is run by about a dozen volunteers. They explained that over the years, demand for the pantry has remained fairly consistent, though its locations have changed.

Early location above Miller’s
“When it was started by Roy Moses and Terry Marks, it was upstairs over Miller’s Drug Store,” said Stern. Then, it moved to space where Llobet Medical Group is currently located.  The coordinators would like to move the pantry into a larger space.

“We need a new space, because this one is too small,” said Iommi. “On Fridays, when people come, some of them have to wait outside, because we can’t have a whole lot of people, it gets too crowded,” she added. 

Volunteers, like Marc Osterweil, said they like to help out at the pantry in order to give back to the community. “Last Friday, two single dads who were out-of-work came by and it was a very moving experience to help them,” he said. Since all of the pantry’s records were destroyed by the flood, Osterweil explained that those seeking help will need to sign up all over again. The pantry is open on a limited schedule. “If someone is having a food emergency only, please call on Mondays and Wednesdays,” said Stern. “On Fridays, we don’t take any phone calls and we accept walk-ins only,” she added. Volunteers will take phone calls on Monday and Wednesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. On Fridays, walk-ins are welcome from 4 to 6 p.m.
To call the pantry, 845 586-2233.