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 the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP), which operates five locations along the shoreline.
The SSKP sites are open to anyone who lives in Killingworth, Madison, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Chester, Old Saybrook, Westbrook East Lyme, or Lyme, Old Lyme. Bob volunteers at both the Clinton and Westbrook food pantries.
“I’ve been volunteering in Clinton for 18 years,” Bob proudly notes of the location closest to Madison and Killingworth residents.
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 firsthand, 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.
People in need in Killingworth and Madison have several options for grocery assistance. For more information about SSKP, visit shorelinesoupkitchens.org. For information about the Helping hands Pantry in Killingworth, email email@example.com or call 860 663-1765 ext. 401. For information about the Madison Food Pantry located at the First Congregational Church and operated by Madison Community Services, call 203-245-3031.