Community pantry provides more than just food

Last modified: 12/6/2015 9:49:54 PM
GREENFIELD — Spotting a gap in access to basic needs, St. James parishioners have set out to bridge it with a monthly pantry offering soap, toilet paper and other essentials not covered by government benefits.

“We were looking at a way to do a new project and we realized that the food pantries don’t give out a lot of these kind of things,” said Whitney K. Robbins of the toothpaste, toilet paper, razors, socks, soap, adult diapers and other hygiene products spread out on two tables in the former library of the St. James Episcopal Church’s Parish Hall. Robbins is a parishioner and coordinator of the small pantry.

The outer hall fills up every Monday for the Second Helpings free community meal at 5:30 p.m. and the pantry doors open at 4:15 on the last Monday of the month, a time when money is running out for people who get Social Security and disability checks at the start of the month, Robbins said. They’ve averaged about 35 people since beginning the pantry in April.

The Rev. Heather Blais said the church is looking for other organizations to partner with them, perhaps sponsor an item, and they are beginning to talk with anti-poverty agency Community Action and the food pantry about how best to fit into the patchwork of existing social services.

“We’re just trying to bridge a gap in the community,” Blais said. The project began with a $900 grant from the Episcopal diocese and goods donated by parishioners.

A number of early arrivals for the community meal, chicken stew cooked by Deerfield Academy and served by the church with help from DA student volunteers, stopped into the pantry Monday.

Greenfield resident Andre Banville, there for the meal and to volunteer, collected shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream and razors. “They gave me some socks too, that was good,” he said.

Friends Richard Townsley and Lynne Nelson also took advantage.

“It’s a good thing, it’s all very helpful,” Nelson said of the pantry. “Whether you use it or not, you just keep it on hand in case you get short,” Townsley said.

All are welcome to attend. Individuals or organizations wanting to volunteer, donate or become a partner of the pantry can reach Robbins at 413-773-3925 or

You can reach Chris Curtis at: 
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257


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