Food bank volunteers provide essential service

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank President Marty-Lee Fenton, front, and volunteer Eric Dumas load food into shopping carts to distribute at the food bank in Naugatuck March 24. –ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — Volunteers at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank aren’t letting the coronavirus pandemic stand in the way of helping those in need in the community.

Food bank President Marty-Lee Fenton and a dozen volunteers zealously packed bags with food, including meats, breads, eggs and vegetables, March 24 for dozens of people that lined up outside the food bank on Spring Street.

“We are open and trying to stay open for as long as we can,” said Fenton, who has been president of the food bank for 20 years and a volunteer for 25 years.

Providers of basic necessities like food banks and homeless shelters are exempt from Gov. Ned Lamont’s order for nonessential businesses to close. For the 58 families the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank served March 24, the nonprofit organization is an essential function.

“It’s definitely a community support,” said Paul Ruccio, who has been volunteering for the last three years.

Fenton said the volunteers, which she considers a great big family, are being as careful as possible. Volunteers are wearing gloves while at the food bank and started to wear masks, made by volunteers Patricia Vieira and Carol Delegrange, last Friday, she said. The food bank needs more gloves and wipes, she added.

“Hopefully, we’re all healthy and keep working to help everyone else,” Fenton said.

On an average day of operation, there are 25 volunteers at the food bank. Recently, that number has dropped to about 12, and Fenton believes it is because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re doing what we can with very limited volunteers. If there’s someone who wants to come down to help, we’ll definitely put them to work,” Fenton said.

Volunteer Wayne Vieira, who has been helping at the food bank for the last five years, said there’s more to helping out than just packing bags. Volunteers occasionally have to travel to Wallingford or Derby to pick up food and bring it back to sort.

Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank volunteer Wayne Vieira loads food into a shopping cart to distribute at the food bank in Naugatuck March 24. –ANDREAS YILMA

“It’s more work than people really think it is,” Vieira said.

The food bank, which serves people in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, distributes food every Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The food bank serves about 75 to 100 families a week, Fenton said, with some coming twice a month.

In February, Fenton said the food bank gave out over 1,000 meals. She feels the food bank may see an increase in families that need help due to the coronavirus outbreak and businesses being closed and laying people off.

The food bank receives food from a variety of sources, including the Connecticut Food Bank, local businesses and donations from the community, and is need of more donations. The food bank is out of pasta, tuna fish and juice, and low on soups, cereals and canned goods. Fenton said the food bank is also seeking donations of cookies, condiments and snacks, and toiletries like shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and soap.

People can drop off donations at the food bank, 75 Spring St., when it’s open, or call the food bank at 203-723-1922 to arrange to drop off donations. The food bank is also seeking monetary donations.

“We want to thank everyone for their donations, prayers and support,” Fenton said.