Ribbon cutting inaugurates new food pantry location

Apr 24, 2024

Volunteers, staff donors and supporters of Damien’s Food Pantry joined together on Tuesday, April 23 to cut the ribbon on a new $2.3 million dollar location. 

“What’s amazing is that all of this took just 22 months,” said Rhonda Veugen, the development lead for the capital campaign which funded the building. 

When pantry staff pitched the new space, they said it would be larger and better able to serve guests and the community. 

Volunteers with the pantry have already noticed the difference — while the new location had its official ribboncutting on April 23, it has been open to the public since Feb. 15. 

“This is much different and much better,” said volunteer Terry Vroom. 

The new setup lets volunteers interact more with guests to the pantry, whereas volunteer work at the old location involved primarily physical labor, said Terry. 

Volunteer Chip Vroom said at the new location, once people are checked in, they are brought in and can get used to seeing the same smiling faces. The new process is “100 times faster and better,” Chip said. 

In addition, the new pantry set up helps people get the types of food that they need and want. 

The former location for Damien’s Food Pantry was set up where volunteers brought out carts with a pre-chosen selection of food for guests to take. With the additional space of the new location, guests can come in and browse a grocery-store-style selection of food laid out in several aisles. 

At the former location, a lot of items would be left in the carts, said Terry — people may have already had corn, or beans, so they wouldn’t need to take those things. Now, they can choose what they need from the start in the aisles. 

“They get that dignity back,” said Terry. 

The food pantry has gone from handing out a shopping cart to providing guests with their own, said Damien’s Food Pantry Executive Director Pauline Lally. 

The community leaders and representatives who had supported the pantry’s construction praised it at the ribbon cutting. 

“Hunger is a big problem, and big problems call for big solutions,” said Cheryl Schondek, the Chief Operating Officer at The Greater Boston Food Bank. The food bank is a source of food for Damien’s, and provided Damien’s with a $450,000 transformational grant to help with the building’s construction. 

State Representative Susan Gifford praised the effort and the caring from the community which had brought the new building together. “To say this was a herculean effort from a big group of very passionate people would be an understatement,” she said. 

Gifford herself supported the pantry by sponsoring an amendment to the state budget, providing the pantry with $100,000 for the new building. 

“Thank you to everyone who is making sure that people have the necessities they need,” said Senator Marc Pacheco. 

“It’s a community effort,” said Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside. “The town is very pleased to be able to support it in many ways.”