“Donations are down by about 30 percent this year, while those needing food has increased by about 30 percent,” said Richardson, adding that food pantries nationwide are seeing similar numbers.
The need has been growing in recent years. In 2005 the Food Pantry gave out about 19,300 meals to 1,898 households. Last year, the pantry gave out about 26,000 meals to 2,500 households. This year’s numbers will far exceed these totals, said Richardson.
The pantry is seeing more recently unemployed people who have never needed its services, as well as increasing demand from the working poor — those who are employed but unable to afford their expenses without a little help.
One such woman is Linda, who is raising her two grandchildren, ages 3 and 4. “Sometimes it’s hard to come here,” said Linda who has a part-time job locally.
“The food I get here helps us make it through the week. I really don’t know what we would do if this wasn’t here…I was even able to get a gift for Christmas here.”
Richardson, who has been running the food pantry together with her husband Paul for the last 17 years, said Linda’s story is not unusual.
Each month, Richardson purchases $3,000 worth of food to stock the shelves of the pantry. Federal and state grant money is used to purchase food and to pay the rent for the food pantry space on Livingston Street.
Volunteers from the churches and the community staff the pantry. The food pantry has about 60 volunteers that do everything from manning the pantry to picking up donations. Many are senior citizens.
On Monday, Frances Minkler, 85, of St. Mary of the Snow and Ethel Wilhelm, 87, of the Katsbaan Reformed Church were working the counter and making up bags of food.
“I know what it was like to have nothing when times were tough,” said Minkler, who lived through the Depression.
“I have the time to do it, so I do,” said Wilhelm, who has been working at the pantry for 20 years.
The pantry accepts donations of food and money at its 44 Livingston Street location. On a recent Monday morning, several people, including various church representatives, stopped by to drop off donations.
Jim and June Partridge from the Plattekill Reformed Church dropped off several bags of food from the church and consulted with Marilyn on the logistics of delivering a truckload of food.
“We do this all the time,” said the Partridges, who live in Saugerties. “We just want to help feed the hungry, because we care.”
Betty Decker, who is 90 but looks like she is in her 70s, is a member of the Centerville Methodist Church. The church puts out a brown collection envelope on the first Sunday of the month, and Decker dutifully delivers the proceeds to the pantry.
Local businesses also step up to the plate. Markertek makes financial donations and Stewart’s gives their day0old bread and donuts. HITS also makes regular donations and last year’s Horsin’ Around Saugerties fundraiser really helped the pantry, Richardson said.
When things get tough at the pantry, “we pray, we put it out on the local TV station, and we call the local paper,” Richardson said.
Saugerties residents can help by taking part in this year’s Boy Scout’s Food Drive. This past weekend, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts went door-to-door in the town and village and left plastic bags on mailboxes. They are requesting unopened, non-perishable food items be left in the bags, to be collected this Saturday, November 13.
The Food Pantry is open three days a week: Monday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon and Tuesdays from 7-8 p.m.
For more information or to make a donation of food or money call Richardson at 246-6885 or send a check made out to the Saugerties Area Council of Churches to the Saugerties Food Pantry, PO Box 723, Saugerties, NY 12477.