(Revs. David and Karen Troxler, pastors of St. Paul’s Church on Summer St., hand over the keys to Duxbury’s new food pantry to Lions Club director Mary Lou O’Connell, vice-president Linda Collins, and Lions president John Killion.)
When people think of Duxbury they think of a community with expensive homes, well-funded local services and successful professionals. Yet for a town nicknamed “Deluxebury,” it might come as a surprise that not everyone is thriving financially.
In fact, times have grown so dire for some families during the Great Recession, the Duxbury Lions Club in now in the process of opening the town’s first food pantry.
By all appearances, Linda Collins, vice-president of the Duxbury Lions and a lifelong Duxbury resident, is successful. She has her own business, Catered Memories, and does some modeling on the side. But a divorce and a tough economy have resulted in her losing her home and soon her car, and services the state used to provide to her disabled son are being pulled due to cuts in the budget.
“I take whatever job I can get,” said Collins. “Women have all had to go back to work.”
She believes that the recession has affected every Duxbury resident, at every level socio-economic level, though she’s been hit particularly hard. In addition to juggling various jobs, Collins has learned how to navigate local food pantries to feed herself and her son.
“I’m pretty good about food pantries and know how to eat healthy,” said Collins. “I know the difference between the pantries too: Kingston has a lot of clothes, Marshfield is pretty good, it has fresh vege-
This is an all too common story to Mary Lou O’Connell. A longtime volunteer at the Plymouth Food Pantry and a director of the Duxbury Lion’s Club, she knows families like the Collinses are not alone.
“The Interfaith Council feeds 150 families and then different churches feed some Duxbury families,” said O’Connell. “There’s a lot going on in town. Quietly.”
O’Connell, who’s coordinating efforts between the Lions Club and Duxbury’s Interfaith Council to open the food pantry, said some may feel shame when they fall on hard times and need assistance – but they shouldn’t. Neighbors helping neighbors is what community is all about, especially in this town.
“People in Duxbury are very proud,” said O’Connell. “Not just Duxbury, but everyone. We were brought up to take care of ourselves, but sometimes you can’t.”
O’Connell was quick to point out that this is a group effort by many around Duxbury. She said what’s touched her most deeply is how the food pantry found its space. Teenagers from St Paul’s Church on Summer Street had a separate building behind the church they used as a teen center, but when they heard about the need for a food pantry, they volunteered their space.
“They’re the ones who should get the credit,” said O’Connell.
Joanne Moore, the director of the Council on Aging, sees firsthand the need around town and believes a food pantry is a great idea. She noted that many seniors live on a fixed income and often have to choose between food and medication. With local taxes due to go up, and food and fuel prices already rising, she worries about the people who walk through the senior center doors. She credits the Interfaith Council with helping over 100 residents this winter with their fuel assistance program – for which the Council’s Black Tie Bingo fundraiser raised $10,245.
“We get fresh baked goods delivered every day,” said Moore, “and they’re gone every day. My Little Bakery comes every Friday to donate goods, and seniors come and take them home. Hannaford and Roche Brothers donate too and it all goes out the side door because a lot of [the seniors] can’t afford a treat.”
This is not news to Liz Polvinen. A member of the Interfaith Council for six years, she was initially astonished to learn how many families in Duxbury need help with acquiring the basic necessities for life in the suburbs. An ongoing endeavor is the Teach Learn Care or TLC Backpack Drive where the Council fills upwards of 95 quality backpacks with school supplies for local children – and according to Polvinen, the Council doesn’t give to the same families every year.
“We think of Duxbury as being very affluent, and many of them are, but some are not,” said Polvinen. “When I heard the Lions Club was going to open a food pantry, I thought it was great.”
For O’Connell, still trying to clean out the last of the teen’s games and furniture from the building behind St. Paul’s, she’s eager to get the pantry up and running – sooner rather than later. But before she can hand out a single canned good, walls need to be painted, the appropriate shelves need to be bought and installed, furniture such as a small desk and swivel chair need to be found and volunteers need to volunteer. And of course food needs to be donated.
“We’re moseying along, taking our time,” said O’Connell while looking around at all that still needs to be done. “We’ll get there.”