Save the Date for a May 1 ‘NO SHOW GALA’ Celebrating 30 Years
The Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry has been assisting families since 1991, and can probably count thousands of volunteers and donors to their credit. However, the nonprofit only began holding an annual fundraiser three years ago. That said, the event isn’t just about bringing in money. “It’s an opportunity to engage with some of our supporters and have a touch point with them,” said President Kelley Housman.
Unfortunately, Covid prevented the spring gathering last year and now this year. So not wanting to completely let the annual connection go, the pantry is going virtual to celebrate their 30th anniversary and holding a “No Show Gala” on May 1. “I’m going to appreciate a night in and think about the good work that the Mt Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry does,” posed Housman. “So instead of buying a ticket, I’m going to make a donation.”
Nonetheless, the story began when the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco and Temple Shaaray Tefila saw a specific need in the community. “People would come out of the hospital,” said Housman, “and sometimes they would need assistance.” The helping nudge became a push, and the pantry was soon serving eight families. Of course, the story is often the same. “Imagine you’re making choices between feeding your family well or feeding them minimally so you can pay your rent,” said Housman. A year later, nine area congregations joined in and 40 families were on the menu. As a result, the business soon added fundraising, and the nonprofit began purchasing subsidized staples from Feeding Westchester. Of course, the bumps in America’s road always sends the pantry’s efforts on the incline. For instance, the 2008 financial crises saw a deep increase in demand. But the pantry always perseveres at the United Methodist Church of Mt. Kisco, and the (almost) all volunteer nonprofit served healthy food to 68,000 people last year.
Food insecurity doesn’t care about the numbers, though. “We just never know how quickly circumstances can change,” Housman said, and first time seeking help can have people biting down hard.
The fear of being judged is the primary mouthful. ‘Nancy’ of Mt Kisco can attest from her initial visit in 2012. A student trying to feed her family, she said, “I felt kind of embarrassed.”
Imagine you’re making choices between feeding your family well or feeding them minimally so you can pay your rent.
On the other hand, any apprehension really has no recourse but to abate. “The volunteers don’t judge and are always there to help,” said the medical assistant.
Housman encourages struggling families to take the first step, but the sentiment doesn’t just come by way of common courtesy. “We create a shopping experience for our clients, where they come in and make selections based on their personal preferences and dietary needs,” she said. “It’s a much better interaction than just handing over a bag of prepackaged food.”
Unfortunately, Covid protocols have forced the process into a less personal experience. Initially clients drove by for pickups, but downtown Mt Kisco wasn’t conducive. So the pantry got creative. Aside from upping home delivery service, families scan in and more rooms at the church are utilized so foot traffic doesn’t overlap. They have also created ‘“Covid pods” so volunteering families stay in the same distribution rooms.
The pantry can’t contain the goodwill, though, and it includes a long roster of local businesses, community organizations, grocery stores and individuals. As the demand has skyrocketed with Covid, Housman is forever grateful for all those who have embraced the mission.
But nothing is better than when the mission embraces the people and comes full circle. “We have a number of clients who have volunteered and even become board members,” Housman beamed.
Area Youth & Creative Volunteers
“We have area youth too who have come up with incredibly creative fundraising strategies.” One group writes poems for donations, another local kid donates proceeds from his own ice cream product and scouting groups have long been doing their share. But receiving also can require emotional support, and two local girls have been on top of it since last summer. They anonymously drop off handmade cards and include notes of hope and inspiration.
Right into the prepackaged bags, the feeling is mutual for clients–and Nancy doesn’t hesitate to express it: “Thank you for all your help, we are blessed.”
For more info on the May 1 No Show Gala, visit www.mountkiscofoodpantry.org