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“Mission: Possible” campaign funds to help out food pantry

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The third in a series.



By REBECCA MADDEN

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Watertown resident Elaine J. Prow doesn’t like asking for help, but is glad to know the Watertown Urban Mission’s food pantry is there when she needs it.

The 71-year-old represents not only one of about 550 households that visit the food pantry each month to help supplement groceries, but also one reason why support for the nonprofit’s $2 million capital campaign is crucial. The agency is raising money to make sure its 247 Factory St. offices receive needed repairs to continue serving the area’s households during their most needy times. An endowment fund also will be created.

“I just come once in a while when I need it,” Ms. Prow said. “I only get a certain amount of money, and pay a Medicaid supplement now, and that stops me from doing much. I only get $60 to $70 a month in food stamps.”

While Ms. Prow does receive some financial help from her live-in adult son’s part-time job, she said the second half of the month is occasionally a struggle. She said she enjoys the pantry experience because she feels dignified when she’s able to select items as she would in any grocery store.

Reluctant some months to walk or take public transportation to the pantry, Ms. Prow said she can’t help but think of families with hungry children who may need the pantry more than she does. After she swallows her pride, Ms. Prow said, she makes the trek to the pantry so she won’t go hungry. She said the pantry also has taught her how to be a survivor.

“One way we are survivors is by coming here,” she said. “They’re keeping us alive in a way. They are one of the blessings of the world to me. When I come here, I can feel there’s love here.”

Part of the funds raised through the “Mission: Possible” campaign will create a more organized and updated pantry space to provide clients with a better shopping experience. During a reporter’s recent trip to the pantry, shelves were stocked with shipments of donations, but pantry coordinator Anita D. Ciulo said they practically fly off shelves as soon as they arrive – especially during the summer.

“Parents often have a low-income job, and kids are now home for 10 extra meals a week,” she said. “If you’ve got a couple of kids, stuff adds up. They’d have to pay a sitter and for extra food, and for some people that’s their whole income.”

Executive Director Erika F. Flint said the mission receives about $26,000 in state funding each year, from August to July, to help buy food for the pantry, but those funds typically dry up before the start of summer. That’s just for food, but Ms. Flint said that because food stamps do not cover personal hygiene items or cleaning supplies, many pantry clients are often in need of those extras. Since the agency guarantees a five-day emergency supply of food every 30 days for families that qualify, all funds are spent on nutritious food. The agency relies on community members’ donations of toilet paper, sanitary napkins, laundry detergent, soap, shampoo and other goods to help their needy neighbors get back on their feet.

Additional helping hands also are given to clients, Ms. Flint said, as volunteers clip coupons, which then become available for pantry shoppers to use at grocery stores.

Urban Mission Development Director Andrew G. Mangione said the campaign is up to $1.4 million. To contribute, drop off or send cash or a check payable to Watertown Urban Mission, with “capital campaign” written in the memo line, to the Watertown Urban Mission, 247 Factory St., Watertown, N.Y. 13601.

Donations also can be made online via the mission’s website, www. watertownurbanmission.com.

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