Cindy Price and Volunteerism: Feeding Hands Pantry

Feeding Hands Pantry, a local food bank that Pioneer Chapter 132 supports through gifting and volunteerism, was featured in the February edition of The BReeze, a local New Jersey newspaper. In this edition, the publication indicated its intent to feature an inspiring nonprofit that serves the Somerset County communities of Bridgewater and Raritan NJ. This article, entitled Feeding Hands Food Pantry Seeing Increase in Need During COVID, charts the pantry’s early beginnings and its evolution as it responded to the Pandemic and, specifically, illustrates how it ramped up its services to stay in lockstep with the emerging demands of the community. Guided by its Mission to “…live out God’s commandment to care for the poor by loving and serving our neighbors in need” and its Core Values of Empathy, Connection and Stewardship, Feeding Hands Executive Director Bennett has indeed formed a team that understands and performs within the moral framework of its principles.

During her interview, Bennett narrated the evolution of Feeding Hands from its onset, in 2014, at Emmanuel Church in Somerville NJ, to its current post pandemic location in Raritan NJ. Says Bennett, “The organization has seen a significant increase in need, now serving 450 -500 families per month, compared to 220 to 260 per month prior to the pandemic.” The Pantry operated inside the church until COVID safety requirements precluded remaining indoors. Then, to meet Pandemic challenges, the team relocated to the Church’s curbside where it constructed temporary distribution operations utilizing U-Haul donated trailers and large tents from a local farm supply company. These structures housed the food in refrigerated containers and shelves and provided cover for the volunteers who distributed food to its clients. Later, the onset of cold weather necessitated a move to a suitable building that accommodated the growing need for additional space. It is of note that Feeding Hands distributed more than $1 million worth of food last year with the assistance of nearly 300 volunteers supported by a Core
Group of 60 individuals.

Cindy Price, of Pioneers Chapter 132, has played an integral role in Feeding Hands since its startup in 2014. She attends Emmanuel Church in Somerville, which partnered with the food bank to serve Somerset County residents. After initial setup, Cindy contributed to planning and maintaining the physical set up. She became the food room manager, gleaning donations from local businesses, stocking and organizing during our off hours and managing client food selections during our evening hours. As operations began to normalize, Cindy stepped up to take over food ordering and acquisition from the Community Foodbank of NJ, a Feeding America partner and major food supplier. She channeled her skills and expertise in Product management and Manufacturing which she acquired at Alcatel Lucent Technologies to lend assistance with order processing, inventory, logistics, warehousing, procurement, distribution and delivery. Moreover, she collaborated with the community food bank and other local food contributors to conduct needs assessment, shortages and reconciliation of items. And not in the least, she has contributed to the most important goal to ensure there are sufficient healthy foods available for our guests. Lois Bennett, Feeding Hands Executive Director, has often referred to Cindy as “my Boss” because of her tenacious nature and unrelenting desire for efficiency. As such, she works to assure that guidelines, as they relate to both pantry processes and client engagement are sustained.” To date, she has remained steadfast in her commitment, and overwhelmingly dedicated throughout this Pandemic. And, with a complete understanding that she could compromise her own safety, she has not been led to withdraw from any activities that include her engagement in the full program and process spectrum. Cindy is an authentically dedicated volunteer who welcomes opportunities to serve.

Not a stranger to volunteerism, she has supported other non-profits such as CrossRoads Theatre, a regional playhouse located in Central NJ and, when she travels to her hometown of Roanoke VA, she volunteers at Harrison Museum of Africian American Culture, an art museum that her brother curates. This is who she is!! And to echo Lois, “We thank you for your outstanding service and dedication to this organization.” When asked what motivates her to volunteer, Cindy responded: I started to volunteer because I believed that it was incumbent upon me to help those in need, to connect with church and community outreach activities, and to offer skills I have acquired that can be used in a productive way. Volunteering at the pantry since 2014 in different activities has become a means through which I can give back to the community and to acknowledge the support that my own family members in Virginia received when they needed it.

Volunteering at the pantry also afforded an opportunity to develop closer relationships and friendships with my neighbors during the Thanksgiving Turkey dinner distribution and weekly Tuesday evening food distribution. Tuesday evening was the Donna, Louise and Cindy team helping our clients with standard bags and additional food selections. Although the Pandemic has changed our involvement, the support remains. Several other neighbors have joined us to volunteer at the Pantry or have made financial gifts. I am pleased to contribute to a cause that I care about; its benefits are reciprocal, and it matches my desire to help others.

Submitted by Joyce Jordan Chapter Secretary