Basic necessities

Boy Scout Troop 212 and Grundy team up to replenish the shelves of the Bristol Borough Food Pantry

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Almost every morning at 7 a.m., Jeffrey Fisher can be found unloading 2,000 pounds of donated food items from a truck outside the Bristol Borough Food Pantry. Afterward, he’ll usually go for a run. Despite having muscular dystrophy for 16 years, his sole mission in life is clear.

“I need to help some people,” he said.

Providing nourishment: Boy Scout Troop 212 has teamed up with the Grundy Library to help restock the shelves of the Bristol Borough Food Pantry. Pictured are (from left) Brendan M., Thomas Smith, Assistant Scout Master; Michael R., Christopher K., Hunter R., Thomas S., Declan D., Gohan O. and Carlos Oliveras, Scout Master. PHOTO: Frank Reilly

Many volunteers put in a 60-hour work week to keep the pantry, which is organized by the Bristol Borough Community Action Group, up and running. But even the hardest workers need assistance sometimes. Through Sept. 1, Boy Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack 212 and the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library are collaborating for the third year to help replenish the shelves of the pantry in a summer food drive.

During regular business hours, non-perishable food donations can be brought to the library, located at 680 Radcliffe St. in Bristol, for collection by the Boy Scouts. The goal of the drive is to collect 3,000 pounds of food to support families and children who might otherwise go hungry during summer months when school is out of session.

The foods most needed are those rich in protein, such as meat ravioli, canned salmon and tuna, canned beans and soup, and breakfast foods including cereal. However, all non-perishable foods will be gratefully accepted.

To encourage participation, the Grundy Foundation has offered a $1,000 challenge grant to support the pantry. To meet the challenge, 1,500 pounds or more of food must be collected, and 50,000 cumulative reading minutes must be logged by the library’s summer reading clubs.

“An excellent aspect of the challenge is that all ages can participate,” said Barbara Gerhard, programming and marketing librarian at Grundy Library. “I am very confident Bristol Borough community members will achieve the goals.”

Since 1971, the Bristol Borough Community Action Group has been serving the local community by providing the basic necessities of food. According to Fisher, executive director of the BBCAG, it is a generational project. His great aunt was one of the founding members, and he’s been heavily involved for the past 30 years.

Fisher prides himself on being part of one of the few pantries that is 100 percent run by volunteers, and always has staples such as meat, despite its increasing prices, every time someone walks in.

“Very few nonprofits can say it’s a volunteer staff,” he said.

He also makes sure each person who comes through the pantry’s doors feels welcome, safe and in an all-around better place than before they entered. Older people don’t need to be nervous about younger, rowdy guests cutting in line, and everyone is able to receive the food they need in a timely, orderly fashion.

“We work to enlighten people,” Fisher said. “How can we raise you up to a better place when you walk in?”

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the pantry does not receive funding from the state or federal government. For Fisher, there is a constant struggle of keeping the doors open with the costs of rent and utilities. To combat this, community members are welcome to give monetary donations through givebucks.org.

“We’re depending on the kindness of strangers,” he said.

All funding raised through the website goes directly to building costs. Eventually, Fisher hopes to expand to a larger location so the pantry can help more people and double as a community resource center. A sign of the times, he has seen an increase in the pantry’s homeless clientele over the years. If someone wants to see how the economy is really doing, he encourages them to look no farther than the floor of a food bank.

Limited neighborhood food collections will be conducted by Boy Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack 212 on Saturday, Sept. 2. Bristol Borough homes located in the area between Walnut Street and Jefferson Avenue and Pond Street and Radcliffe Avenue, along with homes by the high school, will receive a plastic bag and donation flier ahead of the collection date. Other food donations can be made at the Grundy Library, or directly to the Bristol Borough Food Pantry.

The pantry is located at 99 Wood St. in Bristol. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday.

At the Grundy Library, there is a food collection box located inside on the main floor of the building for donations during the open hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com