GLOCESTER – People who travel through Glocester probably think, “What a nice little town with these homes and farms and quaint shops….” But there is another side that most people don’t see.
John Luszcz, director of Human Services, does see it, and more.
Luszcz, along with a cadre of volunteers, hands out tons of food to residents in need through the food pantry located in Town Hall. People come in once a week to pick what they want off shelves. Volunteers load their bags. Some goods have limits, explains Luszcz. A $30 food voucher to Dino’s is also given out once a month.
“There has been a huge increase in demand,” says Luszcz, who has been director for three years.
Why the increase?
“The economy, covid, everything,” responds Luszcz. “People are losing their homes and others are hanging on to their homes by their fingernails. I expected some increase, but not the way it is.”
It is the first Wednesday of the month. This is when $30 food vouchers are given out.
“Today will be busy,” said Bob Hogan, who is one of the volunteers along with his wife Rose Marie Hogan. Other regulars include Jim Chiott, and Town Council liaison Cheryl Greathouse comes in on this day each month to lend a hand.
“I have lived in this town 40 years,” said Greathouse. “We are seeing a much greater need.”
People are waiting to enter the pantry as 10 a.m. arrives. First, there are a couple, but then more start arriving, waiting their turn to fill their bags and get their vouchers.
“Bob,” one of those in need, explains that he is on social security and disability. He is not working.
“It helps out quite a bit,” he said.
Another, “Charlotte,” an elderly woman who has lived in town all her life, survives on low income.
“I really appreciate it when they give us food,” she said. “It helps a lot.”
Most of those seeking help are elderly and single mothers, Luszcz adds. Some come from the nearby senior housing, Laurel Crest and Pine Meadow. Others, he says, are elderly who have lived in town all their lives and are just, “hanging on,” to the homes they grew up in or have lived in most of their lives.
“People don’t really know how many people aren’t making it,” said Luszcz, who himself has lived in Glocester for 25 years.
To meet the increase, Luszcz depends on volunteers and donations of goods and money to stock the food pantry. The pantry does not receive tax dollars from the town. It depends entirely on the generosity of residents and local businesses.
“People of this town have been unbelievable,” Luszcz said. “We live in a town of saints. I have never seen such generosity like this in my life.”
“I’m amazed how much people in this town donate,” said Town Clerk Jean Fecteau. “People come in here and ask, ‘What can I donate?'”
Local businesses, like Hill’s Tavern, Cady’s Tavern, Dino’s Market and others, Luszcz adds, hold food drives or donate food. Others simply make monetary donations to purchase needed goods. Canned goods, says Luszcz, is their biggest need. Recently, Donna Digiulio of Williams Stuart Real Estate held a food drive which helped fill shelves.
“Dino’s is very, very good to us,” Luszcz added. “They have book sales and donate the money. They donate food. They give the seniors a 10 percent discount on Tuesdays…”
Besides handing out food, Luszcz also organizes volunteers to provide rides to doctor appointments and grocery pick-ups for disabled residents. Holidays are very busy. Greathouse explains that recently, they were able to provide residents 50 Easter dinners, including hams.
“It’s very rewarding to see the gratitude from people who come here,” she said.
Despite all the generosity, need increases and resources diminish. Luszcz said that the pantry is down about $10,000 as a result. Still, he adds, they are meeting the needs as much as they can.
“People shouldn’t be embarrassed to come here,” said Charlotte. “If I didn’t come here, I would be scraping to get by…”
Luszcz adds that Navigant Credit Union in Chepachet Village will be holding a food drive on Saturday, May 13. Hopefully, he said, it will help fill the void in canned goods.
The Glocester Food Pantry is open on Wednesdays from 10-1 p.m. in the Glocester Town Hall. For more information or to make a donation call John Luszcz at 568-6206 ext. 222.