As a community journalist, service is provided by reporting out-and-about in the field, covering important issues, events and more that residents want and need to know about. At Patch, the service to the community goes beyond reporting – Patch believes that in order to be a part of a community means you also have to give back to it.
"Give 5" is the Patch way of giving back. What is “Give 5”? It’s a program where editors spend five days each year as volunteers to give back to the communities they serve.
Thursday I had the privilege of assisting the generous, selfless people at the .
The Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry is manned by members of seven local churches: Byzantine Church of the Resurrection, First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, Smithtown United Methodist Church, St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, St. James Episcopal Church, St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church and St. James Lutheran Church. For more than 26 years the pantry has helped struggling community members feed themselves and their families.
Prior to becoming editor here, former Smithtown Patch editor (and current Farmingdale Patch editor) Amanda Fiscina raved about the job the food pantry does and how I would love volunteering there – and she was absolutely correct.
Most of the day I was checking expiration dates on soups in the basement, stocking shelves upstairs to get to items quickly when a client comes in and preparing bags of food for families of two and four who called the pantry before stopping in. My favorite parts of the day, however, were when people dropped off food donations.
Early in the day, Executive Coordinator of the food pantry Pat Westlake called me up from the basement to help take boxes from a minivan donated by Accompsett Elementary School. Although I had to make a lot of trips back-and-forth brining in boxes full of soup, rice, pasta and more that used to hold reams of paper, it felt great to see the willingness of the youth of the community to donate to those less fortunate and the amount of food they gathered.
It was also very refreshing to watch the pantry staff help the clients with very warm and friendly service, not just giving food to them but asking what they like to eat, what their families eat the most, and catering to them for the individuals they are and the specific needs of their families.
Towards the end of the day I had the chance to speak with Westlake and the pantry staff regarding types of items donated and much more. Westlake said that while the pantry receives bags and boxes of food donations regularly, home goods such as laundry detergent and personal hygiene items such as toothpaste and toilet paper aren’t very popular items to donate. Currently, the pantry has a surplus of soups but shortages in canned fruit, jelly, peanut butter and bread.
While helping out Thursday I had the chance to help three families with their food supplies, packing the bags and brining them out to their cars. Before leaving for the day, Westlake said that the pantry has already helped 75 families this month.
I am very happy and proud to say that although my “Give 5” day of volunteering took place Thursday, I feel no need or want to stop my participation with this wonderful community resource, and I have now involved my family – my mother and I have a trip planned to the supermarket Friday afternoon to pick up some of the supplies the pantry could use. I’ve always believed benevolence doesn’t need to happen during a holiday season or at specific times during the year, and the food pantry validated that belief Thursday.