There are times in our lives when events seem to be happening to us and around us so fast and so intensely that we barely have time to breathe, let alone process, before we are on to the next one. 2012 has been that kind of year. Personally and professionally it has been a whirlwind.
The word that best describes 2012 is change. Change is often thrust upon us and that makes us uncomfortable. Even change that we are embracing or even spearheading can often still be a little disconcerting. The House of Concern is in a period of change. Several of the changes are brought about because of factors beyond our control. Others are ones that we have sought due to a natural growth and evolution or just to keep up with the times.
First, lets discuss the ones we have had little or no control over. The House of Concern has had a huge spike in the number of people that we serve. The pantry is now routinely serving about 340 families a month which figures out to be an average of about 940 people a month. Those figures are up significantly since last year and last years figures were up significantly from the year before. We are not any different from any other food pantry in this county. All are experiencing a drastic increase. The unfortunate thing is that while the numbers are growing the resources to aid us are not. In many instances they are actually shrinking. Foodlink, which is the food bank that provides food for us and several other counties has had a serious decrease in their funding. That impacts all of the pantries and we all suffered a serious decrease in funding this year to purchase food with. The budget year for Foodlink and for House of Concern runs from July 1- June 30. We ran through the money that was allotted to us this year by September 1st. We did that while also spending well more than a thousand dollars each of the first three months of our budget year. We did that and still some days I would walk in to the pantry only to find that once again we had no tuna or peanut butter or eggs. We did that because there were days that we served 27 families and the shelves that we had filled the day before were wiped clean by the end of the next day.
The need keeps growing and so we have had no choice but to start to think outside the box to keep those shelves filled. This summer we started really focusing on getting fresh produce in our pantries. We found many area growers were happy to share their bounty with us. This became a win win situation for us as we were able to get additional food to the families and it was food that is healthier than what we sometimes give. The Community Garden in both Seneca Falls and Waterloo provided us with lots of fresh produce. We also were fortunate to receive a grant from the state of New York thorugh Foodlink to purchase fresh produce from local growers. That was great because it gave us the food while at the same time allowed us to support our local economy.
Some of the other ways that we are attempting to provide for the growing number of clients is to try to improve and promote our store a bit more. The store was originally started to provide funding for the pantry. I think that in the ensuing years people started to forget that and began to think of the store as a place for our clients to get either free or greatly reduced items. While it is true that we do allow those in need to receive items for no cost, that is not the only people who the store is for. It is for anyone who is looking for a good bargain and perhaps some interesting and unusal items.
If you have visited us lately I am sure that you have noticed some big changes in the store. We were fortunate to receive a grant to lower our ceiling in the store and get new lighting. We are so wonderfully bright now! We also will have reduced heating bills which will certainly be a bonus. We also have a coffee corner now. We are selling coffee, tea and cocoa now and soon will have water and juice available.
We have House of Concern Sweatshirts and t-shirts for sale in black and red. Take a look at the pictures on the website or even better come on in and take a look. And…there will be a new promotion very soon that is a collabortaion with Seneca Meadows and area businesses that will benefit House of Concern and support local small business at the same time. So keep your eyes open for that.
Last, one of the bigger changes… starting Saturday November 24th the House of Concern will be open Saturdays from 10:00-2:00 and the store hours are changing and we will be open 9:00- 5:30 Monday- Friday. We hope that all of you will pass the word along. Our goal is to get people into the store to shop who have not had the opportunity to do so becuase the hours have not been user friendly for many who are working. There are amazing deals to be had and treasures to be found. The inventory changes daily and you will find everything from designer lable clothing with the tags still on to some eclectic and interesting art to complete sets of Christmas dishes. All will be reasonably priced and all of your money helps us keep the food pantry stocked.
There will be other changes coming as we stretch and try new things to meet these challenges.There will be special promotions and there will fund raisers. Some of them will work well… some probably not so much but it is with a dedication and devotion to our mission of helping our neighbors in need that we will try them all.
So change is here and we welcome it even if it scares us a little!
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!