Person of the Week
Andy Perrone Finds Fulfillment in Volunteering
Andy Perrone has volunteered at the East Haven Food Pantry since 2009, serving as treasure for the past five years. (Photo courtesy of Andy Perrone )
When the company for which Andy Perrone worked was reorganized in 2009, he lost his job. While he looked for a new position, he found himself with extra time on his hands and wanted to give back. As the East Haven Food Pantry (EHFP) is located just down the street from his house, he reached out about volunteering.
Even though Andy found a new position in the IT field, he continued to volunteer. He has since retired and has devoted even more time to the food pantry, as well as the Knights of Columbus, the choir at St. Mary’s Church in Branford, and doing minor odd jobs for East Shoreline Catholic Academy.
“I’m always looking for ways to give back,” says Andy, who has lived in East Haven since 1975. “I started volunteering at the food pantry by going in on the days they weren’t giving out food and stock the shelves.”
In addition to stocking the shelves, Andy was volunteering every Saturday for the meal distribution. With underlying medical conditions, when COVID hit, Andy stepped back from distributing meals as meals are now handed out in a drive-through format. He now focuses his volunteer efforts on times when others aren’t in the building.
Andy also spends a lot of time at home fulfilling his duty as treasurer of the EHFP. In 2015, the treasurer resigned and Andy was asked to fill the position. Since then, he has moved the EHFP from a check register to Quickbooks.
“Andy is the man behind the scenes,” says EHFP President Dianne Roman. “Since the pandemic, the pantry has received so many monetary donations from our generous community to help keep us going and provide our residents with supplement food and Andy has the job of keeping all the donations recorded and runs to the bank a few times a week. He is also responsible for balancing our books.”
Though Andy didn’t have experience in bookkeeping, his background in IT helped him with the transition to Quickbooks. His wife, Donna, has a tax practice in town and now that he is retired, Andy helps her with her business.
Traditionally at the end of tax season, the couple enjoys a vacation at their timeshare in Aruba where Donna has a chance to unwind after many busy months. While Andy enjoys Aruba, he most looks forward to “adventure” vacations, which they typically planned in November.
Andy also traveled extensively during his 24-year career with Unilever, working two years in London and for months-long projects in France, Denmark, Italy, and Puerto Rico. That, combined with his leisure travel, has brought Andy to 40 different countries on six continents.
“My wife doesn’t want to go to Antarctica, so I don’t know that we’ll get to the seventh,” says Andy. “I love to travel and it’s great meeting different people in all kinds of parts of the world.”
Some of Andy’s favorite places he has visited include Israel, Thailand, Vietnam, and China, though the last trip he went on with Donna tops the list. The couple took a barge cruise on the Nile in Egypt with only 16 travelers on board.
“That trip was so great we’d do it a second time,” says Andy. “Usually I feel like there’s enough places to see that we haven’t seen, but we’d see that again.”
Of course, with COVID, travel has been sidelined. Despite missing the experiences on their trips, Andy has kept busy during the past year with his volunteer work. He has seen a large increase in demand at the EHFP.
In 2019, there were 475 families registered to receive food. That number nearly doubled in 2020 with 930 families receiving assistance. Even though there has been an increased demand, Andy has also seen an increase in donations.
“There has been great support from the community as far as donations,” says Andy. “We haven’t been able to do our fundraisers like Bingo, but we’ve had individuals hold fundraisers and collections and our donations have gone way up.”
Andy has also seen changes with the Knights of Columbus. Andy became involved in the organization about 15 years ago, serving as recording secretary from July 2017 to 2019 and currently serving as deputy grand knight.
Since the onset of COVID, the Knights of Columbus has hosted all of its meetings via Zoom. The group has also had to make adjustments to annual events, such as the coat drive. This year only monetary donations were accepted and then new coats were purchased.
Andy’s favorite event with the Knights of Columbus is Take a Vet Fishing Day, held annually at Killam’s Point. Though the 2020 event had to be canceled, plans are underway for this year’s event, scheduled to take place in August.
Veterans hold a special place in Andy’s heart. He served in the National Guard from 1969 to 1990. He would have continued to serve, but he was put on a project in London for work and couldn’t serve from overseas. He retired as an E7 and non-commissioned officer in charge of supply.
Throughout his time with the National Guard, Andy attended a training for one weekend each month and a two-week “summer camp” training. Andy was a member of the 103rd Tactical Control Squadron.
“Our mission was to go anywhere in the world and have our mobile radar unit up and operational within 72 hours,” says Andy.
Now Andy’s focus on giving back to the community is local and he encourages others to volunteer. He is quick to note that the EHFP could “always use volunteers.” There are many jobs for volunteers, including stocking the shelves, shopping, preparing the bags of food, and distributing food.
Anyone in need is welcome to drive-through. The first time, volunteers collect some information from families for the Connecticut Food Bank, but Andy notes that “once you’re registered, you just drive through.”
Food distribution is held Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The food bags include grocery staples, as well as breads, desserts, fresh produce, and meats.
Andy is grateful for the donations that have continued to come in throughout the pandemic, as well as the food drives held by various organizations throughout the year and the support of Stop & Shop.
“There are times when the cupboards get a little bare, but they’re pretty good right now,” says Andy. “It feels good to give back and do things for others. You get more out of it than you put into it.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .