BRIEF & INFORMAL DESCRIPTION AND BACKGROUND OF THE FALL MOUNTAIN FOOD SHELF
The Food Shelf was founded in the fall of 1977. Mary Lou Huffling and Helen Bascom, who runs the Thrift Shop at the Alstead Transfer Station, were among the original founders. It has been in operation for over 30 years.
Shortly after they began operation, it was clear that there was a need for hot meals to be provided elderly members of the community. Mary Lou saw that older people who received groceries did not feel up to preparing meals. Depression, illness, and a lack of gas money added to their isolation. Thus, Friendly Meals spun off from the Fall Mountain Food Shelf as a way of giving people a way of remaining in their homes as opposed to having to move to a nursing home. Today, the Friendly Meals is a separate organization from the Food Shelf that provides meals twice a week model and at the Alstead Town Hall (the rear of the Alstead Fire Station). Meals are also delivered to shut-ins in the Fall Mountain area, including Charlestown. Friendly Meals, has their own small building on the North bank of the Cold River with a commercial-grade kitchen on Alstead-owned property. In the future, it may be possible to house a senior center and dining hall in this location.
The two institutions, the Food Shelf and Friendly Meals have an overlapping board membership. Much of the food for Friendly Meals is purchased from wholesalers. Friendly Meals financial support, in part, is provided by the towns served and from generous donations.
The Fall Mountain Food Shelf currently has about 30 volunteers who do the shopping (mostly at food sales), maintain inventory, and serve clients. The Food Shelf has a 1992 truck (donation) and van (grant money) that are shared with Friendly Meals. Volunteers drive the truck to pick up food purchases, deliveries of food from CAP (USDA food), and the NH Food Bank orders. The CAP food is provided at no cost. The Food Bank food costs 23 cents per pound (18 cents for storage at Manchester and 5 cents for transportation to Claremont where orders are usually picked up. Many items needed for the Food Shelf are not available from with CAP (USDA) or the Food Bank.
Volunteers also staff both the Charlestown and Langdon Food Shelf during operating hours, transfer food from Langdon to Charlestown as required, and deliver groceries to older folks who call in their needs. The USDA distributes surplus food nationwide on the basis of families served. Thus all food distribution organizations maintain statistics on the number of families served. These numbers are used to divide up the food among the states.
The Charlestown Food Shelf occupies a building on 54 Woodrise Road (off Lover's Lane). It is open for deliveries MON 9-11, THU 9-10, FRI 9-11. (603) 826-5657
The town of Charlestown pays for the rent. The utilities (heat and electricity) are donated by the landlord who has gone out of his way to be supportive of their activities. He is also providing additional storage space on a temporary basis at no charge. The location is accessible but not in area with lots of traffic. This provides some privacy to those using the services of the Charlestown Food Shelf.
The Fall Mountain Food Shelf is located in the Baker Building in Langdon. The building also houses the Langdon Town offices and Police Department (the Fire Department has their own building next door). The town of Langdon owns the building and provides the space to the Food Shelf rent-free. The town also pays for the utilities. The town of Acworth pays about $5,000 a year to the Fall Mountain Food Shelf (some of this assistance may go to Friendly Meals). The town of Walpole also contributes funds. The town of Alstead provides use of the Town Hall twice a week for Friendly Meals and space for the Thrift Shop at the Alstead Recycling Center. The impetus for the towns' participation in the Food Shelf is RSA 165: Aid to Assisted Persons ( http://www.nhlgc.org/affiliate.NHLWA. The select boards of each of the towns in the region believe that participation of the towns reduce the cost to the taxpayer of meeting some of the town's obligations under RSA 165.
Revenues for the Fall Mountain Food Shelf (and the Charlestown Food Shelf) come from a variety of sources. The donations made for items from the Alstead Thrift Shop are split between the Food Shelf and Friendly Meals. The revenues from the Walpole Recycling Center shop go to the Food Shelf. Mary Lou estimates about $400-500 per month of income from these two sources. Bake sales are held 6-7 times a year at town festivals (the upcoming Langdon Harvest Festival, for example), election days, and so on as opportunities arise. Additional volunteers (not the 30 above) bake loaves of bread, cookies, and brownies, for donation to the sale. Items are "sold" by donation. The election day sale on September 14 sale received $600. Additional sources of income are annual contributions to the spring Feinstein Foundation drive that are matched in competition with other food distribution organization based on numbers of families served. At least one church takes up a monthly collection for the Food Shelf. A number of people send in monthly checks for support. A $30 per person dinner dance in Walpole in the Winter is held to benefit the Food Shelf. Burdick's in Walpole acquires a number of beer steins from the Munich Octoberfest and auctions them off for the benefit of the Food Shelf. One way or another, the Food Shelf raises between $5000 and $6000 for its operations, much of it provided by community organizations.
Mary Lou was recognized by Governor Lynch last fall for her contributions to the community in her work for the Food Shelf and Friendly Meals. The success of the Food Shelf can be measured by the fact that historically it has been able to meet a rising demand for assistance without every turning people away or running out of food. although there have been close calls.
The Charlestown Ecumenical Network can help the Fall Mountain Food Shelf and the Charlestown Food Shelf in numerous ways by filling in with time and skills not available from the corps of existing volunteers. Here are some suggestions:
In summary, the Fall Mountain Food Shelf is a deeply rooted community institution that has a long track record of meeting the needs of the region. Its volunteers are well-loved and respected by the community and by many in that most vulnerable sector of society, the elderly poor. There is no question that the warmth of person-to-person contact, neighbor loving neighbor, and communities taking care of our own are fundamental values of the Fall Mountain Food Shelf that have been instilled in the volunteers by its leadership.
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