posted on December 15, 2014 08:18
Article by Jennifer Sexton - courtesy of The Cape Cod Chronicle
Creating a stable life here on Cape Cod is an elusive dream for many. For those below a certain income bracket, the cost of the dream can seem prohibitive. For Cape residents who wish to improve their station in life by pursuing a college education while still making ends meet, the challenge can turn daily life into a balancing act between dedication and desperation.
The Family Pantry of Cape Cod Community College was founded to help ease the difficulty for hardworking local students and even staff members.
Founded in September 2013, the Family Pantry of Cape Cod Community College, sponsored by the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, fills a need in the community by filling the bellies of students so they can focus on the task of filling their minds. The need for a Pantry was brought to one professor’s attention a few years ago, according to College Pantry manager Christina Soltis, by the plea of a hungry student. “In my second semester, a year and a half ago, a psychology professor was in the habit of serving popcorn to her students whenever she showed a video in class,” Soltis recalls. “After class one day, a student approached her, thanked her for the popcorn, and mentioned that this was the only food he would have to eat that day. The student asked if the professor happened to have any leftover popcorn that he might take to eat later. The professor was so affected by the student’s request that she came to the social welfare policy class and said something had to be done. She fought to help get the Pantry started.” Cape Cod Community College reached out to Family Pantry of Cape Cod Executive Director MaryAnderson in spring of 2013 to explore the possibility of a partnership. “It was becoming apparent that the need was greater than the relief they could provide alone,” Anderson says. “They wanted a pantry for students and staff on site. David Willard, the vice president and director of community relations of Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, who is very connected to all of the Cape’s nonprofits, called me to see if I was interested in a partnership. Of course I was. I had a preliminary discussion with Susan Miller, the vice president of Cape Cod Community College, and we came up with a plan.” The College Pantry is open to anyone with a college ID. Students, adjunct faculty and support staff are all among the hungry who find relief at the College Pantry. “They found space at the college a nd had plenty of student volunteers to run it,” Anderson says. “The Family Pantry ran the training, and provided the same software that the Family Pantry uses. The College Pantry now has its own database which is a twin of the Family Pantry’s. After some training and a few questions in the first couple of weeks, they were running on their own with no help. We order food through a separate account at the Greater Boston Food Bank and buy the rest as needed, and the College Pantry volunteers pick it up.” TheCapeCodCommunityCollegeFamilyPantryisopen Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the school year and currently feeds about 100 households. “That’s just under 200 people, including 53 children,”Anderson explains. “Some students are young moms and dads. Our partnership agreement is a way to help break the cycle of poverty. People trying to get an education and improve their financial situation need a pantry. Now they have one, thanks to a remarkable group of young people. I see them as future leaders, especially the College Pantry manager Christina Soltis, who has managed it since the beginning.” Soltis, a human services major with one semester left to complete, is grateful for the ongoing partnership between the family Pantry of Cape Cod and the Cape Cod Community College Family Pantry. “Thank God for Mary Anderson,” Soltis says. “She was there to help us. The college said we needed sponsorship, and she was there. The first year we helped 77 clients, and by the third semester we helped 115. Some people come to the pantry every week. The Legacy Club here at the college was actually founded specifically to start the Pantry, as a way for students to help students. We have five or six members who volunteer and run the Pantry most weeks. Some of our professors have a service learning requirement, and they require their students to volunteer. We have about 20 of those this semester. We can’t accept food donations directly from the community, but we can accept health and beauty aids and diapers.”
The Family Pantry of Cape Cod Community College is located in the lower level of the Life Fitness Center, accessible from parking lot 12. For more information, contact Caren L. Pray, administrative assistant in the Division of Arts and Humanities at 508-362-2131, ext. 4325 or call the College Pantry at 508-362-2131, ext. 4365.
“Sometimes things are meant to be,” says Anderson, “and this has worked out wonderfully.”
Donations to the Helping Neighbors Fund Drive may be sent to The Family Pantry, 133 Queen Anne Rd., Harwich, MA 02645 (see donation form on page 44). Donations may also be made online at thefamilypantry.com. To help stock the Pantry with food or to contribute to the Pantry’s toy and gift program, drop off nonperishable food items or new, unwrapped presents at the Pantry on Tuesday and Thursdays 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Thursdays 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 5 to 7 p.m.