2013-06-28 / Front Page

Food pantry decides on location

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Florence Stewart, a volunteer at the South Portland Food Cupboard, serves barbecue chicken to Ruth Minihane at a cookout fundraiser for the food cupboard’s move, scheduled for September. The food cupboard will hold two more fundraisers this summer. (Jack Flagler photo) Florence Stewart, a volunteer at the South Portland Food Cupboard, serves barbecue chicken to Ruth Minihane at a cookout fundraiser for the food cupboard’s move, scheduled for September. The food cupboard will hold two more fundraisers this summer. (Jack Flagler photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – Sybil Riemensnider has been searching for a new home for the South Portland Food Cupboard since news came down early this year that St. John the Evangelist parish may close.

She said a few offers came in, but for months she held out, hoping an offer may present itself that would allow the food cupboard to continue operating rent free. Early in June, with fewer than three months until St. John the Evangelist closed its doors, Riemensnider, director of the food cupboard, decided it was time to take action.

“Time was getting short and we had to make a decision,” Riemensnider said.

The food cupboard has found a new permanent home at 130 Thadeus St. in a warehouse located off Broadway between Cash Corner and the intersection of Broadway and Evans Street. The property is owned by Mark Duval, who runs Duval’s Service Center on Park Avenue about a half mile down the road.

Riemensnider said the new space will provide the food cupboard with 4,000 square feet of much-needed room for storage and the ability to expand the walk-in freezer. It will also eliminate the hassle of setting up and breaking down furniture, as volunteers do each week now because the food cupboard shares the basement space on Main Street with other organizations.

Duval said he has been familiar with the food cupboard since his children volunteered there while they were attending the Holy Cross School, and he recognized the huge value of the service to the area.

However, the move will not come without costs. The food cupboard will have to pay monthly rent and utilities, on top of funds needed to make the move, which Riemensnider hopes will come in September.

Duval said he is providing a discounted rate for the space, although he declined to specify how much exactly Riemensnider will pay for rent because details of the rental agreement are still being worked out.

To cut into those expenses, three local chapters of the Knights of Columbus organized fundraiser cookouts to be held throughout summer, from which all proceeds will be donated to the food cupboard.

The first event was held Saturday, June 22 at Holy Cross Church on the corner of Broadway and Cottage Road. Volunteers from Knights of Columbus served hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, barbecue ribs and pulled pork, with sides of baked beans, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad and coleslaw to more than 100 people.

Riemensnider said the event raised $1,188 in proceeds, and an additional $1,250 in donations.

“It was a huge success. I really think the food was delicious,” Riemensnider said. The Knights of Colombus outdid themselves, I was really pleased with everything.”

Ron McClay, a member of the Knights of Columbus that serves St. John the Evangelist, Holy Cross Church and St. Maximilian Kolbe in Scarborough, sad the Knights hope to work together more on some community-based projects.

AccordingtoMcClay,KnightsofColumbuswenttoRiemensnider with the idea for the cookouts because it recognized the value of the service the food cupboard provides to the community.

“They’re part of what we do,” McClay said as he flipped burgers on the grill Saturday evening.

The next cookout will be held 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20 at St. John the Evangelist parish. The final event is scheduled to take place 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in Scarborough.

According to Riemensnider, the food cupboard served 700 individuals last month, many of whom are working, but need help to feed their families, especially as children are out of school for summer. The food cupboard started operating in the city in 1997, and moved to St. John the Evangelist in 2001. Riemensnider estimated the value of the donated food last year at nearly $300,000.

Volunteers from the food cupboard joined the Knights to serve food and desserts to families at the cookout Saturday. Lynne Tetreault, who scooped ice cream and served brownies, said her experience volunteering for the last two years has been incredibly rewarding.

“Every time I go it puts a smile on my face. The strength and unity of the volunteers is tremendous,” Tetreault said.

According to Tetreault, the compassionate spirit of the food cupboard extends beyond the volunteers to the families coming in to pick up meals. When she was working last week, Tetreault said she saw a mother walk in to the food cupboard. Before the woman could walk out with her heavy bags, another mother with small children offered her a ride home.

“The stories of humanity are amazing; everybody has a story there,” Tetreault said.

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