Fourteen years ago, Vesta Godwin Clark stood across the street from the St. James Social Service Corp. food pantry in Newark – watching as fire engulfed the second floor.
Vesta – the executive director – had made sure her staff got out safely. And now she stood helplessly watching as firefighters kept the blaze at bay. Someone tapped her on the shoulder.
“It was one of our pantry visitors,” she remembered. “And he said to me, ‘Will I still be able to get food tomorrow?’”
Vesta, who has been the executive director for 23 years, would be hard-pressed to find a better example of what the food pantry means in the community. And were they open the next day?
“We cleaned up the space, and we had our pantry the next day,” she said proudly.
The pantry, which receives food from CFBNJ, operates their food distribution and soup kitchen every day.
“We serve up to 4,000 people per month,” she said.
Vesta credits her team, which she calls her family, for making sure folks in her community have the food they need.
“During COVID, we operated against all odds. We stayed open the whole time,” she said. “We are a family here.”
The community is still recovering from the pandemic.
“We provide food for a lot of different people, including working families who have gotten jobs post-COVID, but just aren’t making as much as they were.”
And while she knows there is still much to do, she loves working with her team – her family.
“We’re the small agency that does big things,” she said.