What year did your business start?
The Guilderland Food Pantry started in 1979, in a closet in the basement of Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church. It was started by Bertie Chesbrough to help those in Guilderland who received food stamps but found the stamps ran out before the end of the month, and they were still short on food. Bertie opened the pantry to supplement food stamps. The pantry is still in the basement of HUPC but now has expanded to 800 square feet. Due to increased enrollment and not being handicapped accessible, we are looking for a ground floor facility with double that amount of square feet.
What is your phone number and website address?
What hours are you opened?
We are opened from 9:30-11am Monday thru Friday. We also open Tuesday evening from 7-8pm for student volunteers to work.
How and why did you get into the business?
My husband Mark Hopper and I both wanted to have a ministry that we could work on together after retirement to give back to the community. We both felt blessed to have a long, successful career in teaching and felt in our hearts that we should show that gratitude by serving others. It was at the same time Linda Jacobson stepped down as director of the pantry and my pastor at Christ Church Guilderland, Brian Rutherford, asked Mark and I if we were interested in becoming co-directors. We immediately said yes because it was just what we were looking for.
How many people are you serving?
We are currently serving about 120 families and 330 people. They can receive food, paper products and personal products every 4 weeks. The only requirement for receiving food is to live in the town of Guilderland. Our clients also receive a complete holiday meal every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We have an Angel Tree program at Christmas time for each client to receive a Christmas gift. Toys for Tots also supplies one gift for every child. We take great pride in serving our guests with compassion and respect.
What do you love the most about directing the pantry?
I love the dedication that our 30-40 volunteers have to the pantry. We have people who come in every week day to answer the phone from our clients, field questions about eligibility, or to pack food for them. We have many people who make deliveries to our shut-in clients or shop for food. Others do data entry or event planning for fund raising. Some of our volunteers have been with the pantry for over 10 years and one who has been there for 16 years. I also love the interaction with our clients and hearing their stories of resilience. Many people have lost jobs or houses due to our changing economic trends, while others may have lost a job due to physical limitations. Each and every one of them have had to learn to survive these circumstances and I respect their ability to be creative in putting food on the table for their loved ones. I must also mention how grateful I am for the generosity of the people in Guilderland who donate financially to the pantry.
What is your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is keeping the shelves full of food which means continuous food drives in our community. We are also in a very tight space in the basement of a church. We need to be on ground level floor to accommodate our handicapped and elderly population.
What do you want people to know about you?
That there is a 5% poverty rate in Guilderland, with a population of 35,000 people. That means there are approximately 2,000 people in Guilderland who are in need of food and we are serving only 300. We need to reach the other 1,700 people and let them know we are here to help. No one in Guilderland should ever feel hungry, especially since this is a generous, giving community. I want people to know where we are and how we can help them.
How can the community help?
Community members can help us out by organizing a food drive at their place of business, church, school or even at your personal parties. We’ve had a few people ask their guest to bring a cash gift or or food gift to their birthday parties. We are also in need of volunteers who have technology skills. We also are looking for people to deliver to our shut in families.