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Expressions of generosity aplenty at food pantry

The Peterborough Food Pantry has been a service organization in town since 1995. That’s a long time for a nonprofit. Lots of factors determine our success; things like reliable volunteers, providing good service, accessible space and, very importantly, the generosity of a community. I really believe that Peterborough people understand that it’s up to us to take care of our friends and neighbors in need. Taking care not just in words, but in daily actions that make a big difference in people’s lives, and in teaching and modeling to their children that it’s important to share what we have with others.

There are many heartwarming stories that occur at the Peterborough Food Pantry in any given week; in fact I’ve been encouraged to write a book about it one day. I don’t think that will happen, but I will share a few stories of generosity that reflect the kindness and caring of the community around us.

Let’s start with “The Carrot Lady.” Once a week, for as long as any volunteer can recall, a nice lady comes to the pantry with two huge bags of carrots that she purchases for us. Some months it’s apples. She simply drops them off with a smile and heads out the door. She doesn’t want a big fuss made, she’s just doing her part to help, she says.

Then there is Deidre McGrath-Fischer, the owner of Copies & More, who found a creative way to help out. Rather than collecting a fee when customers drop off a UPS or Fed-X box at her store, she made a small food pantry donation box that stays on her countertop. Customers can just pop in a dollar or two instead of paying a fee. Wow, does it add up each month. She calls us when the box is bursting, we pick it up, and the shelves at the food pantry get a boost. Then she starts all over again.

Deb Giamo, a revered fitness and Zumba instructor, regularly collects both money and food for the pantry during her classes. We can count on Deb visiting the pantry with a check and/or a big box of food for us to distribute on a regular basis. We’re always on her mind.

The Soul Yoga group in West Peterborough also keeps us in their thoughts, and gathers up lots of healthy food which they leave for us when they meet at the Community Center.

This month, we started receiving fresh vegetables from local farmers and families. SDE employees build and keep a garden all summer long, and much of what they grow is donated to the pantry. Matt from Otter Brook Farm and the staff at Rosaly’s gave us tomato plants and other seedlings for families to put in a pot or small garden. Cornucopia and the Hillsborough County “garden gleaners” all chip in so we can provide our customers with fresh local produce.

My favorite expression of generosity lately is the children who come in, piggy banks in hand, encouraged by their proud parents who wait in the background. The children, often a pair of siblings, walk up shyly to the desk and hand over their piggy banks to the volunteers. We ask their help in shaking out their allowance on the countertop, praising them as the coins hit the surface. “Wow, look at all that money!” we say. Big smiles are all around and the kids always look relieved when they get their piggy banks back. Their parents have taught them to share what they have at an early age. Good job, mom and dad!

There is a man who drops in a few times a year, looks into the pantry, and asks the volunteers, “What do you need this week?” He drives over to Shaw’s, and returns shortly with two huge shopping carts loaded with food. He won’t say who he is, doesn’t want a thank you note, he just wants to do his part to help. Mind-blowing!

We also have a dear elderly food pantry customer, who will often reach into her purse and pull out $2 to give us when she collects her weekly food. “No thank you,” we say, “it’s not necessary.” But she insists it’s to help children who need food.

Each of these sweet moments, and many others not mentioned here are examples of intentional acts of kindness and generosity from good local people. Peterborough is indeed a good town to live in.

Christine Mann is the board president of the Peterborough Human Services Fund, the nonprofit organization that operates the Peterborough Food Pantry located at 25 Elm St.

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