Person of the Week
Bob Eburg: Keeping the Pantries Stocked
For almost 20 years, Bob Eburg has been a stalwart volunteer for Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries. (Photo courtesy of Bon Eburg )
Bob Eburg said he recently learned how to search his emails so he went back trying to find one old message in particular.
“I found an email from 2003 I sent asking if the pantry needed any volunteers. So that’s how long I’ve been doing this,” Bob says.
For close to 20 years, Bob has become a familiar face helping others at both the Clinton and Westbrook food pantries.
Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP) operates five locations along the shoreline and Bob can be found at two of them.
“I’ve been volunteering in Clinton for 18 years,” Bob proudly notes.
The Clinton pantry is located at the United Methodist Church at 12 Commerce Street. He has also been a manager at the Westbrook location at Westbrook Congregational Church at 1166 Boston Post Road.
“It’s something I jumped at for four years ago there was an opening,” Bob explains.
A complete rundown of the times for each location can be found at shorelinesoupkitchens.org.
As a manager in Westbrook, Bob’s duties including managing the volunteer shifts, making sure people go to the right place, and sorting through and preparing foods. Next, it’s time to have people come in and get their food.
“Pre-COVID, everyone came in and it was regular grocery shopping,” says Bob.
Now, things are different.
“Now it’s drive through, each family gets three bags full of three different kinds of food groups,” Bob says, adding that each SSKP property is operating like this for now.
Masks are required and one group is allowed through at a time to minimize contact between groups.
Bob says that he oversees 32 volunteers in Westbrook. Pre-COVID, the pantry was serving 100 families per week. Sadly, like elsewhere across the country, there has been a tremendous surge in food need locally. Bob has seen that surge first hand, stating that during the month of March in 2021 the pantry in Westbrook averaged 270 families per week needing food assistance.
“The bulk of the food we serve comes from the food bank, and about 20 percent comes through donations,” Bob says.
Despite the dramatically increased need, Bob says he and the volunteers he manages are up to the task of meeting it.
“I’m continually amazed at the work and dedications by our volunteers and it amazed me every week,” says Bob.
Bob grew up in West Haven and spent many years working for Hummel’s hot dog company as a route salesman, which he describes as “an all-encompassing job.” Bob retired about four years ago, shortly before he took on his management role at the Westbrook pantry.
Bob says that volunteering is something that came to him later in life as opposed to when he was younger.
“Once my kids started getting older and really into high school, that’s when I started,” Bob recalls.
It began with volunteering at things like food drives in Middletown and overnight shelters, which Bob enjoyed. One day he decided to reach out to the people at SSKP to see if they needed help, and 18 years later Bob is proud to say he’s still at it.
“The generosity of people is really amazing,” Bob says of all the help he’s seen volunteers give to people in need at the pantries.
Bob says there are still a need for volunteers at the pantries and that interested parties should go online to the SSKP website for more information. Currently, Bob says that the pantry he manages needs cereal, tuna fish, peanut butter, and spaghetti sauce.
“It should be noted that all five SSKP locations are in churches and they donate the space, the electricity, the fridge space, give us a lot of donations, and a lot of our volunteers are from the parishioners so we couldn’t do what we do without them,” Bob notes.
Bob grew up in West Haven but he has called Clinton home since 1987.
“The kids needed more room to run around, so we decided to move here,” Bob says.
In his spare time, Bob can be found in his flower garden.
“It’s always been life-long passion,” says Bob.
It’s a passion that Bob traces back to his mother, fondly remembering how once Bob and his siblings were out of the house, she tuned a whole section of the yard into a garden.
Asked his favorite part of Clinton, Bob says he enjoys the quiet and the scenery. “It’s a very quiet nice town. And I’ve always lived near water, I like walking the marinas.”
And one more thing: “Clinton people are also very generous,” Bob remarks.