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Filling Cupboards and Warming Hearts

November 12, 2018

Joanne and Ellsworth Evans, of Tyngsboro, work one of their two weekly shifts at the Open Pantry of Greater Lowell. They find the work enriching.

This is the latest in The Sun’s “Be a Volunteer” series.

By Rick Sobey

rsobey@lowellsun.com

LOWELL -- Ellsworth Evans looks up and down the lengthy list of food items.

He heads over to one side of the room, grabbing a package of chicken drumsticks. He then surveys for cereal boxes, tuna cans and fruit cups.

“It’s a heck of a lot more fun than sitting at home and watching daytime television,” says the Tyngsboro man.

Evans and his wife Joanne, both 76, have been volunteering at Open Pantry of Greater Lowell for six months.

They have two weekly shifts at the downtown Lowell pantry, located on Hurd Street, where they primarily fill the food orders.

“I enjoy the socialization, the camaraderie,” Joanne said. “I enjoy helping people, and giving out food.”

“All of the above,” Ellsworth added in.

It’s a busy time at the pantry as they get ready for Thanksgiving. Bags are prepared with all the fixings for the holiday.

The pantry has about 50 volunteers. Ellsworth and Joanne became volunteers at the pantry after they heard from a fellow churchgoer that the pantry needed help.

“I was volunteering for another organization, but came over here where they needed me,” Joanne said.

They’re very active at West Chelmsford United Methodist Church, and the volunteering is a part of “our expression of our faith,” Ellsworth said.

Mondays at the pantry are very busy. About 7,000 pounds of food is delivered, and they help unload the truck.

“The amount of food they give out is amazing,” Ellsworth said.

Open Pantry of Greater Lowell receives major help from the Greater Boston Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief organization in New England. The food bank provides the equivalent of 50 million healthy meals annually distributed through its network of 530 member agencies in the 190 cities and towns across Eastern Massachusetts.

Recently, the food bank recognized Open Pantry of the Greater Lowell as the Community Partner of the Year Award recipient. To meet this criterion, the recipient must be a food bank partner that has gone “above and beyond” in fulfilling the mission.

“For them to choose us out of all of the agencies, it’s huge,” said Executive Director Geoff Bryant. “That’s just really cool.”

Open Pantry of Greater Lowell serves about an average of 1,800 individuals per month. They have distributed about 370,000 pounds of food, enough food to provide more than 300,000 nutritious meals to constituents.

To volunteer there, call 978-453-6693 or email info@theopenpantry.org .

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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