March 31, 2013

Fairfield food pantry fund drive starts strong

Mark Scribner, a businessman in Windsor, has pledged $25,000; other receipts total $13,682

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD — Donations, some big, some small, and all appreciated, have begun to arrive for the Interfaith Food Pantry just weeks after it announced a $100,000 goal to move out of its current, cramped quarters and into a new home.

click image to enlarge

Interfaith Food Pantry volunteers in 1998, including Herbert Scribner, far right, whose son, Mark, contributed $25,000 to the organization in his father's honor. The others in the group, from left, are Bill Nye, Marie Nye, Nancy Marcoux, Marcel Donahue, Juliette Gauthier, Dick Tompkins and Suzie Caverley.

Contributed photo

click image to enlarge

The future home of the Interfaith Food Pantry in Fairfield.

Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans

The pantry has received $13,682 so far from donors throughout the community.

In addition, it has received a pledge of $25,000 in matching funds from Mark Scribner, a businessman who runs a manufacturer representative's firm in Windsor.

Scribner said he made the donation largely because his father, Herbert Scribner, volunteered there for many years. He said he didn't know that the pantry was in need of support until he saw an article in the Morning Sentinel. Scriber said that he made the donation as a one-to-one match in order to encourage others to give.

"Hopefully, this will spur more donations," he said. "That was my goal."

Scribner grew up in Fairfield, where the pantry has provided food to about 400 people per month for the past 20 years. The pantry currently operates out of the first floor of a house owned by the First Baptist Church on Newhall Street, but the space is inadequate for the volunteers to meet the demand comfortably. When the volunteers gather twice a month to distribute food, the operation spills out onto the lawn as workers inside the house continually bump into each other. Those who come to the pantry visit with a church representative in a tiny bathroom, pantry administrators said.

A second large donation has come from Fairfield's VFW Memorial Post 6924.

VFW member Durwood Beckwith said he put in a proposal to make a sizable donation to the food pantry, which also receives a monthly $300 donation from the VFW post.

As a result, Beckwith said, the VFW contributed $10,000 to the cause.

"We try to do as much as we can for veterans, but we also do it for the local community," Beckwith said.

The VFW's charitable donations, which total about $100,000 per year, are paid for through state-licensed games of chance, Beckwith said.

"I knew we were going to get donations, but I didn't know we were going to get big ones like that," pantry co-director Nancy Marcoux said. "You just don't know. You have to have faith."

While the majority of the funds raised have come from Scribner and the VFW, smaller donations mean just as much to the pantry, because they demonstrate widespread community support, co-director Louella Bickford said.

She was very touched by a donation of $107.12, she said, because it came from National Honor Society students at Lawrence High School.

Bickford said that $100,000 will allow the pantry to renovate a currently vacant warehouse behind the town office that the town acquired as part of the larger Gerald Hotel renovation project.

"Our prayers are answered just to have that building," which the town plans to lease to the pantry at a rate of $1 per year, Bickford said.

Renovations include the installation of flooring, creation of a kitchen, purchasing of coolers and other equipment to store the food. The building's third floor will be replaced with a peaked roof, Bickford said.

Bickford said the pantry has done a good job of helping people through a difficult time in their lives.

"We're all a paycheck away from being that person," she said. "We're Mainers, and that's the way it is. You lose your job and you're looking for that other job, and this might help for that week or that month."

Pantry records show it has fed individuals more than 68,000 times since opening 20 years ago.

Before moving to Newhall Street, the pantry operated out of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on High Street, but in 2011, it was one of three local churches closed by Waterville's Corpus Christi Parish in Waterville due to strained finances and declining usage rates.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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