NAUGATUCK — In a small, white building on Spring Street help is given to those who need it.
The Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank distributes food to those in need. However, it is the food bank that finds itself in need at the moment. In these tough economical times, the food bank is seeing more of a demand and fewer donations.
“Last year, there were 150 new families that came to the food bank. This year, as of August, there have already been 169 new families,” said Marty-Lee Fenton, president of the food bank.
According to Fenton, 54 families came in last Tuesday.
“We are averaging 100 families a week we are feeding,” Fenton said.
Betty Piurkowski, an Oakville resident and Naugatuck native, has been volunteering with the food bank for 11 years. She is one of the people who goes out and does the grocery shopping. She explained that she does not receive any discounts on grocery, but rather will buy items in bulk when they are on sale.
Even with the donations and the items the food bank is able to buy, Piurkowski feels that it is not enough to help these days.
“We’re so busy now, as soon as it reaches the shelf, it’s gone,” Piurkowski said.
Fenton is also concerned with how fast the food was going compared to how slow donations are coming into the food bank.
“This morning we had 45 dozen eggs,” said Fenton, pointing to a table which only held three egg cartons last Friday. The food bank was also out of coffee and tea that day.
The food bank receives donations from a variety of sources, local schools hold collections throughout the year, local churches always collect, and the Postal Service does a food drive.
“We are greatly appreciative of any donations of food,” Fenton said.
The food bank is set to get donations from two other sources this month as well.
Naugatuck Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi will be running the ING Hartford Marathon Oct. 13 to raise money for the food bank.
Rossi, who ran her first 5K in 2011, decided to set a goal of running a marathon. She trains by running through the streets of the borough.
“Running through Naugatuck, I just feel so much more connected to my town,” Rossi said.
It was that feeling of connection that led Rossi to want to give back to her community.
“I was thinking that I should utilize this selfish, personal milestone and give back in some way. I kept thinking, What can I do? How can I give back?” Rossi said.
One during while she was out running, Rossi saw a group of people lined up outside of the food bank and she knew immediately that was the organization that she wanted to help.
“I know they’ve been struggling so much in recent years. We hear about it all the time,” Rossi said.
Rossi contacted Fenton, explained her idea, and set a goal of $1,000 to be raised and donated to the food bank. She plans to collect much of that through small donations from the community.
“What is $5? It is a little more than the cost of a cup of coffee and, truly, what will it buy you? Half of a lunch,” Rossi said. “With enough $5 donations not only can we meet $1,000, but we can exceed it and really make a difference for the food bank.”
Rossi has faith she can reach $1,000 She said she’s seen how generous and helpful the people of Naugatuck are.
“They’re so incredibly generous and supportive, and it really makes me proud to be part of this community,” Rossi said.
To help raise larger donations, Rossi said that any business, organization, or individual who donates $100 or more will be listed on the back of her race jersey.
“It will be great advertisement at the race, which will have thousands of people, and it will become part of my regular running apparel, so it will be spotted up and down New Haven Road,” Rossi said.
Donations can be mailed to Rossi at 100 General Patton Drive, Naugatuck, CT 06770.
The Knights of Columbus in Naugatuck are also helping the food bank this month.
Starting this Sunday through next Saturday, the Knights are hosting the Taste of Naugatuck.
The event features a special menu prepared by a variety of restaurants around the borough. A portion of the sales at those restaurants will go towards the food bank.
Naugatuck’s Grand Knight Larry Hanlon explained that customers just have to tell the restaurants that they are there for the Taste of Naugatuck. A full list of participating restaurants and the special menus can be found at kofcnaugatuck.wordpress.com.
Hanlon explained that this event will simultaneously help advertise the restaurants and raise money for the food bank.
“With this kind of money, the food bank can buy meat, fresh produce, and turkey for Thanksgiving,” Hanlon said.
Knight Peter Farrell said that the knights wanted to make sure the food bank had turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Hanlon said that the organization, which has been in Naugatuck for 127 years, donates to the food bank every year.
“The first order of being a knight is charity,” Hanlon said.
While the food bank is short on donations at the moment, it isn’t shy on volunteers.
Fenton explained that each month a church sends volunteers to staff the food bank, and there are also the regulars that come in to help every week.
“They come because they love to help people,” Fenton said.
Fenton said that she was very pleased to have so many willing and helpful volunteers.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have the helpers. None of us could run this alone,” Fenton said. “We work great together.”
The Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank is located at 75 Spring St. and distributes food from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 10 a.m. until noon on Fridays. For more information, call the food bank at (203) 723-1922.