"When one rises up, all of us rise up."
That's what the Rev. Dr. Connie Jones strongly believes will make her idea for the Harvest Food Drive at the East Hampton Middle School on Saturday a success. It is the Saturday before Thanksgiving, an opportunity for families to take part in a day of giving and showing love for the community, Jones said.
People can donate non-perishable items, money, gift cards or certificates.
All of the donations that come in on Saturday will be divided up between the food pantries in Montauk, East Hampton (including the satellite location in Amagansett), Springs and Wainscott.
Jones first suggested holding an annual drive to help the local food pantries collect donations two years ago, and the East Hampton Food Pantry organized a drive, held at Town Hall, that gathered two truckloads of donations.
Jones, now a newly appointed board member of the East Hampton Food Pantry, took the reins this year, hoping to grow the effort even more. A family event, including face painting and children's rides, the drive will be held at the drop-off location on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"This year we moved it to the middle school because of the traffic and because of the grocery store," Jones said referring to Waldbaum's Supermarket, which is located nearby on Newtown Lane.
Girl Scouts will stand in front of the entrance at Waldbaum's and ask shoppers to pick up a few donations for the drive, as well, according to Gabrielle Scarpaci, the executive director of the East Hampton Food Pantry, which alone feeds 250 families per week.
"We're just trying to get the word out to the community that there are people in need in East Hampton Town," Scarpaci said. Her organization — which does not count the numbers fed elsewhere in town — fed 37,000 in 2011. She said the 2012 figures are estimated to be at 35,000.
Having such donation drives is very important to keeping the organization a float, she said. "We spend $150,000 a year on food. The demand is so high. Since 2008, our numbers have quadruppled."
Fundraising has increased to include summer movies, a western fair and the annual New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge. "All year we really have to hustle to break even and have enough money to cover our costs," she said. "The community has really stepped up and been able ot help us. I think it will continue."
Jones reached out to the farmers, many of whom already donate fresh foods to the pantries. "They have been so generous," she said.
Scarpaci said that a few years ago the East Hampton Food Pantry decided to move toward fresh foods, particularly because the pantry is located at Windmill Village, a senior housing development in East Hampton, and many residents there are on restricted diets. The pantry spends over $1,000 a week buying fresh fruits and vegetables, in addition to fresh dairy products.
In terms of the food drive, though, it's easier to collect canned and dry goods, such as pasta, rice, peanut butter and jelly, since the rest of the food pantries in the Town of East Hampton do not have significant storage space available.
Jones is also appealing to the second homeowners who may be coming out for the holidays. "They can call us at the food pantry. We would love to have whatever is left in their pantries," she said. She's even willing to go and pick it up.
"Be a neighbor; Feed a neighbor," shes aid. "Our neighbor is not just next door, our neighbor is anyone who is in need."