Raise a flag, feed a family

Sep 27, 2023

On Wednesday, Sept. 27, a forklift raised a flag to celebrate the planned new home of Damien's Place Food Pantry. 

That date marked the completion of the building’s roof, just a few months after the lot was cleared in June. While the structure of the building remains an empty frame, the “topping off” of the building with the roof marks an important milestone toward the its completion, planned for the holiday season this year. 

The new building is being constructed with an eye toward the dignity of its guests. 

The space will have supermarket style shelving, allowing those in need of food to chose their groceries the same as any other shopper, according to Board Chair Nick Decas. 

That serves multiple purposes, Decas said. While it's important to provide a welcoming experience with dignity, it also cuts down on the food waste that happens when people receive food they don't want or know how to cook. 

The building will also have a community garden with approximately seventy beds, an office space for one-on-one meetings with guests in need of direction toward additional support systems, said Decas. 

The new building will not only expand the services that Damien’s can provide, but also make up for the deficiencies in the current location. 

In August of 2021, the food pantry polled volunteers and community stakeholders to figure out what it needed for its future, said Executive Director Pauline Lally.

It was apparent from the survey that a better space was the number one need as well as the number one opportunity for improvement, Lally said. 

Damien's currently occupies a building at 3065 Cranberry Highway, East Wareham. 

The new building will have twice the freezer space, refrigerator space and dry food storage capacity as the old, said Decas. 

Currently, the pantry often has to turn down donations because it doesn't have the space to store them, said Decas. "We're not going to have that problem in this facility."

Father Columban Crotty, the center's chaplain, gave a prayer at the start of the ceremony. 

"Today, as we gather to celebrate the completion of the first phase of our new facility, we are grateful, Lord, for the incredible support of our generous donors and dedicated volunteers, without whose compassion and generous support, the needs of many who lack sufficient nourishing food would not be realizes," Crotty said. 

Crotty also indicated that there was still work left to do. 

Damian's has raised approximately $1.7 million of the $2.2 million needed to finish the project. 

The food pantry received a $100,000 donation the night before the ceremony, which brought the project's funding to that $1.7 million mark, but it still needed an additional $400,000, said Development Lead Rhonda Veugen. 

The Town of Wareham has supported the pantry since 2010, providing $436,000 in community development block grants with an additional $50,000 to be paid this year, said Chair of the Select Board Judith Whiteside.