By Michelle Miller
---- — An organizer at the Hartwick Food Pantry says the number of those needing assistance feeding their families has seemed to level off.
Regina Palmer, who took over the administrative duties with her husband, Jim, in April 2011, said last year the pantry served an average of 45 to 50 families and that number is the same this year. That translates into about 100 people per month, she said.
“We saw a higher number of people in January and May,” she said. “I am not really sure why. There was a bit of an increase in the summer, but for the most part, things have remained pretty steady.”
The pantry is located in the Methodist Church on county Route 11 and is open from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. People can come two times a month, and there are limited restrictions of eligibility, according to Palmer. She said the only thing checked is one’s ID because it is important to make sure people are coming from the immediate area.
“People were coming from as far as Worcester and we want to encourage those people who have food pantries in their communities to go there. It makes more sense for them to do that with gas prices, anyway,” she said. “Also, we have found when people donate they want to make sure their donations are helping those in their own communities.”
Most clients come from Hartwick and Mount Vision, according to Palmer. However, she said there are a few from Milford, Laurens and Edmeston.
“We do not check people’s income because we figure if people are coming, they must need the assistance,” Palmer said.
The pantry has been providing services to area residents for at least 15 years, and relied on local donations only until a partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York was made. The pantry has also evolved to include volunteers.
Palmer said she feels the volunteer staff of about 15 is adequate but would never deny a helping hand. If interested in volunteering, call Palmer at 293-7331.
According to Palmer, various high school groups and local clubs have contributed to the food pantry.
“We have a very generous community,” she said. “Otsego Electric is always having collections and raffles for us. We get a lot of meat from Larry’s Custom Meats. He just donated 30 pounds of hamburger. We get some meat at discount prices and he donates a lot.”
Palmer said she and her husband have been volunteers at the food pantry and assumed more responsibility when Anita Harrison decided to slow down.
“She is still active at the food pantry and volunteers,” Palmer said. “My husband and I are both retired and have the time, so we thought we could help our community a little more.”