B y Jaime Thomas
The decorations and the Christmas trees have (hopefully) been put away, and with them, the season’s spirit of giving has disappeared as well.
Our Neighbor’s Table food bank in Wells knows this too well.
Director Michelle Bates said between January and April is the worst time of the year for donations, which doesn’t correlate with need.
“It’s these months when everyone’s broke; we get very few donations from people,” Director Michelle Bates said, figuring holiday-spending debt and a wait for tax returns are to blame.
The bank has seen a seen a slight increase in usage since last year and feeds 40 to 45 families two times each month. What’s unique at Our Neighbor’s Table is that any Wells resident can come for food, no questions asked.
“We don’t have to answer to any higher power,” Bates said. Becky Corey, a volunteer, said sometimes a family might need help just once because an unexpected expense arises. Others have been laid off and face tough choices.
“Are they going to be warm or have medicine or eat?” Corey asked. The shelf is able to maintain its open offering partially because the town votes to give them $2,000 each year. And Bates said Wells is lucky to have 15 to 20 volunteers who keep everything running smoothly.
While some have questioned the possibility of residents taking advantage of the no-questions-asked policy, Bates said a Vermont Food Bank director told her it’s more important to concentrate on the 90 percent that actually need the assistance.
The shelf does receive some food donations—there is even a couple with a local camp that comes from Albany every weekend with food—and Bates said that is extremely helpful. However, financial donations are few and far between and are very important.
As a member of the Vermont Food Bank, Our Neighbor’s Table gets a lot more bank for its food buck than a person in a grocery store.
“That $10 gets the food shelf $40 worth of food through the Vermont Food Bank,” Bates said. Additionally, the food shelf pays attention to nutrition and tries to provide fresh food as well as frozen and canned staples.
Corey explained the bank is filling a need but some people, especially the elderly, are too stubborn to ask for assistance.
“It’s not a handout—it’s a help up. It’s filling a need,” she said, adding that she occasionally makes deliveries for those who are shy and also gives out recipes to people who are interested.
Others, however, recognize the resource and embrace a chance to visit with other members of their community.
“People come early to socialize with neighbors,” Bates said.
The food shelf is open from 4 to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, but volunteers are available any time and can make deliveries.
Volunteers will sell ready meals and baked goods on town meeting day—March 4—to raise funds.
Those interested in donating money or food can send it to Our Neighbor’s Table, PO Box 914, Wells, Vt., 05774 or drop it in the donation box at the Wells town office. For more information call Bates at 802-645-0934, Corey at 802-783-8036 or Carole at 802-325-3578.