By Sheila Marie Long, Associate
Associate Tigers Den Food Pantry, located in Amherst, New York, is a community-based partnership of Amherst Central Schools, local area Churches, and the Food Bank of Western New York. Thirty devoted volunteers from senior citizens to high school students manage and staff the food pantry which is supported solely by generous donations from its partners as well as individuals, grocers, and civic organizations. Along with non-perishable food products, the Pantry also offers personal care items, paper products, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and fresh bakery items and clothes for all the family members, toys and books. During the summer months, there is a large garden that provides fresh vegetables and herbs.
We currently serve 100 families in the 14226 zip code. Qualifying families choose their items once a month. I have been a volunteer since the Pantry opened in May 2017. I love working with the families — learning about their cultures, where they come from, getting to know the whole family, how we can help them, their dietary habits. The pantry has grown from providing children who receive meals at school with meals in the summer to helping the entire family with whatever it needs. One of my favorite stories is that I couldn’t get a young mother to accept any pasta or rice products. When I asked why, she explained she did not have a pot to cook them in. Can you imagine in our lives today not to have a pot to cook in? When I mentioned this to friends, they immediately opened their wallets and gave me money to buy several pots for the Pantry. It opens your eyes to what we take for granted and what others need….even a simple cooking pot. What an education I am getting working at the Pantry.
I see so many others giving from their hearts…..Girl Scouts making up Birthday Boxes for the kids of our clients, students from a local girl’s high school who collected feminine hygiene products, volunteers who drive clients so they can collect their groceries, the woman who plants and maintains our beautiful vegetable garden, interpreters who help staff and clients communicate. My jobs are simple: stock shelves, review donations, shop with families, organize the clothing donations — but my joys are many.