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John Tibor has been volunteering with the North Haven Church Food Pantry for more than 20 years. (Photo courtesy of John Tibor )
When John Tibor moved to North Haven 20 years ago, he and his wife joined the North Haven Congregational Church, quickly becoming involved with the Churches of North Haven Community Food Pantry. The food pantry is housed in North Haven Congregational Church, but it is run by all of the churches throughout North Haven.
“All of the churches in town support the food pantry and it’s been around for much longer than I’ve been involved,” says John. “It originated 50 years ago when the fire department identified a need in the community. As the fire department grew, they no longer had space to house the food and it ended up at the Congregational Church.”
The Food Council was formed with representatives from each of the church in town. The Food Council oversees the food pantry, which operates throughout the year with pickups on a monthly basis and serving about 40 families. In addition to the monthly pickups, the Food Council holds two special distributions: one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas.
The food pantry has been busy preparing for the 2020 Thanksgiving distribution, seeing an increased need. Last year, there were 115 families served with this year’s numbers already reaching 125. The Food Council coordinates with the Town of North Haven’s Food Pantry.
“We share a list with the town to make sure families in need are included on one or the other,” says John. “We reach out to families who receive monthly support as well as families who were included in past years.”
For the holiday drive, families receive two boxes of food that not only contain staple non-perishables such as canned vegetables, cereal, peanut butter and jelly, pastas, and more, but items for a holiday meal. The North Haven Rotary Club has donated 100 turkeys and Vox Church will also be donating turkeys.
Families also receive fresh produce such as potatoes, onions, celery, fruit, and more and dairy including milk, eggs, margarine, and bread. These items are procured by the Food Council using any monetary donations collected.
“One thing we’ve seen this year is fewer donations of food, but people have made up for it with monetary donations,” says John. “We’ll be going shopping to fill in the needs of whatever is short.”
Those interested in donating can make checks out to North Haven Congregational Church, with a memo identifying the donation for the food pantry. Donations of non-perishable food items can be dropped off at North Haven Congregational Church from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. There is a doorbell at the business entrance and once buzzed in, donations can be left in the grocery carts just inside the door.
The Food Council suggests that an appointment is made in order to make a larger donation. Hope Christian Church recently brought a pickup truck loaded with food donations. The boy scouts also recently held their town-wide annual collection that is a nationwide effort.
“Every year, the boy scouts do a massive, huge food drive and bring it to the church for sorting and packing,” says John. “Last year, it was more than a ton of food—that’s the biggest contribution we get and they always collect an impressive amount of food.”
In past years, more than 50 volunteers would gather to sort and box the donations, but due to COVID, the volunteer process had to change this year. Volunteers will be working in short shifts with a limited number of volunteers at a time.
“We can’t have the massive number of people filling boxes so we’re spreading it out over a longer time and having two distribution locations at the church, one for pickup and one for delivery,” says John. “We’re doing the best we can to keep the traffic flow at a minimum.”
Volunteers can sign up for shifts through the church’s website www.northhavenucc.org. There will be volunteer slots available for sorting and packing boxes, distributing and delivering food, and cleanup. Volunteers will also be needed for the Christmas food drive.
John has been volunteering with the Food Council since he moved to North Haven more than two decades ago, but he has gotten more involved in the past 10 years since he retired. He not only helps with the Food Council, but with other roles in the church as well as with the North Haven Land Trust.
“Since I retired, more and more of that time has been picked up with church activities—that’s the benefit of retirement,” says John. “I’m passionate about taking care of people in need and there’s such a need for it right now. I’ve been able to meet many of the people we have served and their appreciation is so heartfelt.
“There are many people who help with the Food Council and I just help where I can,” adds John. “All of the churches are working together and it shows that there is so much in common. People might think churches are different, but we all have same goal in mind of helping those in need and it’s very easy to work together when you have a common goal.”
To volunteer, see the signup sheet posted at northhavenucc.org. Volunteers will also be needed for the Christmas food drive and delivery in December. For information, call 203-239-5691.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .