The battle against hunger is an issue that afflicts thousands here in New Jersey and it is charitable organizations like the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morristown that help provide some relief, especially in the face of these tough economic times. It is a place filled with dedicated volunteers and employees who pour their heart and soul into making sure people in need have a simple meal to eat.
Interfaith Food Pantry Assistant Director and Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Carolyn Lake exemplifies how easy it is to get drawn into the satisfaction of helping others. She has been a parishioner of her local church for many years, but was inspired to become involved with the food pantry in 2002 after hearing another parishioner talk about her experience donating food to a woman who was struggling to feed her family.
“The lady said that once the woman received her food, she was so gracious just to get a can of soup to feed her children, it was so inspiring,” Lake said. “The next day, I went to the pantry and began donating extra food from my house.”
Lake volunteered at the pantry for two years packing bags with food for clients, helping with events and programs, and delivering food to families who are homebound. Then a tragedy struck in 2004 when Nadine Gray, the assistant director of the food pantry at the time, passed away from ovarian cancer. Lake later agreed to step in and take over Gray’s work, and embarked on a new chapter of her life.
Lake has been the Interfaith Food Pantry’s full-time Assistant Director and Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator for the past seven years and has worked hard to uphold some of the programs and services the pantry provides. One group of programs in particular that Lake prides herself on is the nutrition services that are provided to clients who come in.
“It is important to not only feed our clients, but to educate them on what they are eating and advise them to select food based on the Food Pyramid,” Lake explained. “This is done through our Client Choice Program so our clients can pick healthy options from the pantry shelves.”
The Interfaith Food Pantry also provides an on-site nutrition counselor to help clients stay healthy. One area of health they emphasize is guarding against Osteoporosis by encouraging clients to choose dairy products. Lake says she could not be thankful enough for the over 16,000 hours of work Interfaith Food Pantry volunteers put in every year. The volunteers mainly help bring in the weekly food pickups from The Community FoodBank of New Jersey, a main source of the food the pantry receives. She’s amazed at the time and effort they put in, all out of kindness.
“It really is great to see people helping each other out, especially in tough economic times like these, to volunteer and donate anything they can to help.”
As she sat at her desk reminiscing about the events that led to this point as a full-time fixture of the Interfaith Food Pantry, Lake shared this final thought.
“You will never get rich working for a nonprofit and the hours you put are double that of a regular job…but being able to put food on the table for someone, it’s all worth it and I envision myself doing this for a long time.”
For more information on the Interfaith Food Pantry and the fight against hunger, visit mcifp.org.
By Bob Fierro