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Parish Cupboard feeds neighbors

(From left) Frances McKinnon, Beverly Baskin, Shirley Dudeck, and Candy Boucher. Reminder Publications Photo by Erin O'Connor
By Erin O'Connor, Staff Writer

WEST SPRINGFIELD Candy Boucher has been working at the Parish Cupboard for nine years. She has seen the former single family home in all of its glory and all of its dark days. Her work is not mandated by the government, state agencies or nonprofits but functions mainly on the generosity of human nature and the sweat of volunteers. Unfortunately donations have not been as high this year compared to last.

"We are a matchmaker between the community and folks that have something to give," Boucher said to Reminder Publications. "Essentially we do food here. We used to do clothing but decided we didn't have room for it."

According to Boucher, the amount of donations the Cupboard has seen this year has decreased by 50%.

"The last couple years have been very challenging raising food and funds," she said and attributed it to the economy and the other many other avenues in which people can contribute.

In the March/April Big Fund Drive the Cupboard raised $28,000. The amount was $7,000 under what they were hoping to raise. Boucher commented on the lack of publicity she has seen for other food banks in communities and adds that the Cupboard is in, "partnership with other food sharing and helping agencies."

"We are advocates for people that need things other than food," she said. "We make phone calls and we cheer-up."

The Cupboard serves lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with the help of two volunteers and serves about 12 people.

"They come into the dining room and don't say who they are. They are just coming and going," she said.

Two volunteers also work in the food pantry from 9 to 11:30 a.m. through the week sorting and giving out food.

Boucher said residents of Agawam and West Springfield who bring a piece of official mail dated within 30 days are welcome to collect food from the Cupboard.

"Food is sorted and arranged by volunteers and we give what we have," she said. "We don't expect them to become dependent on us."

Last month the Cupboard gave food to 140 households that fed about 400-500 people.

The building located at 1023 Main St. has been home to the Cupboard for 20 years now. The Cupboard originated in the mid- 1980's when people in churches were collecting items for donations.

"A lot of people are bringing food and money but the majority are not," Boucher said. "Twenty-two thousand newsletters go out seasonally and 15% are responding."

Boucher said at the moment they are not looking for food. They have enough food to feed until August. They would like members of the community to start planning for the fall. They encourage people to organize food drives for September and October at schools and churches.

In July and August, members of the Cupboard will be having a Back to School Drive. They are currently collecting school supplies and will give them to families and children that come in at the end of the summer.

"The best supplies to get are the ones on the lists at department stores for the schools; paper, pens and markers are things needed," Boucher said.

"We don't work for anybody. We work for the communities. We trust people who care about their neighborhood," Boucher said.