PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Food Pantry welcomed local legislators, town leaders and representatives of community organizations Thursday as they toured, blessed and cut the ribbon at their renovated facility.
The renovation of the food pantry at 20 Dewey Ave. was completed on June 22 after four years of planning. As community leaders and stakeholders toured the facility, they praised the team of volunteers who keep it running, combating hunger and providing a sense of dignity to those in need.
President of the Plymouth Community Food Pantry Board (PCFP) James Forker thanked all those who gathered to celebrate this “milestone” in the history of the food pantry, which was founded in 2002.
“Today, our director Larry Chiucarello and his merry band of volunteers put in 3,100 volunteers hours per year,” said Forker. “Our Food Pantry received 185,000 pounds of donated food last year to distribute to those in need.”
Forker presented Father John Hopko, Pastor at Saints Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Church, with a $10 bill, which he said represents 10 years of rent for the food pantry. He thanked the church for its vision and support of the pantry.
Pastor Hopko said that the building that today is the food pantry was once a bar, which he said in his mind is a major upgrade. He said he is grateful for the partnership between the church and the food pantry and the work that the volunteers do on behalf of the community. He then prayed for God to bless the food pantry, those that it serves and those that serve them.
Mayor David Merchant remarked that he’d visited the food pantry when they were planning the renovations and that, to see them completed, was “amazing.”
“I can’t say enough about the volunteers; they are the backbone of our community,” he said. “You have gone above and beyond to help your neighbors in need.”
Merchant praised the volunteers for “thinking outside the box” and adapting to the challenges of operating during the pandemic.
Rep. Whit Betts praised the volunteers at the Plymouth Food Pantry for providing dignity to those who come to them.
“You are meeting a critical need and making people feel like they belong,” he said. “You aren’t getting paid; you are doing this out of the goodness of your hearts. You are a shining example and an inspiration.”
Sen. Henri Martin said that the volunteers at the Plymouth Food Pantry “provide hope” that those who are facing homelessness or hunger can one day get out of that situation. He read a proclamation from the general assembly praising the volunteers for their efforts to end hunger in their community.
“I can only imagine that you put a smile on God’s face,” said Martin.
Food Pantry Executive Director Larry Chiucarello thanked all those who have supported the food pantry, from those who donate $5 to community organizations that conduct fundraisers on their behalf. He also thanked the late Professor Richard Cobb, who included funding for the food pantry renovations in his will. Cobb was professor and mentor to former Plymouth Food Pantry Executive Director Erin Kennedy at the Taft School in Watertown. Chiucarello said that he provided many substantial donations to the pantry throughout his life as well. A plaque on the wall at the Plymouth Food Pantry honors his memory.
“Richard Cobb, remained close friends with Erin long after her graduation and admired her volunteering her time at the PCFP,” said Forker. “When Professor Cobb passed away in January of 2019 at the age of 75, after teaching at Taft for over forty years, he bequeathed a sum of money to the Pantry in his will that almost to the dollar funded the Pantry renovation.”
Cindy Bombard, president and CEO of the Central CT Chambers of Commerce, praised the community of Plymouth and provided a $250 donation on behalf of the Chamber.
“I was born and raised in Plymouth and my family has lived here for five generations,” she said. “This is a great community of people who always come together to help each other. It’s a great community to live in.”
Police Chief Karen Krasicky, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Food Pantry, said that the renovated space was “excellent.”
“In the 16 years that I’ve been here as chief I’ve always been amazed at the way the people of Plymouth come together for the betterment of the community,” she said.
The renovations to the food pantry created isles with gondola shelving which clients can browse like a supermarket to pick up food, pet supplies, diapers and personal hygiene items. A carriage corral was also installed to keep the pantry’s 12 shopping carriages organized. The carriages were donated by Adams Hometown Supermarket. A counter by the entrance has tables with fresh produce and refrigerators and storage areas have been consolidated.
Renovations also included the removal of crumbling floor tile which contained asbestos. The electrical service was upgraded, with new wiring and plugs installed. This electrical upgrade made the pantry both brighter and more energy efficient.
Additionally, a box with a plug was installed on the exterior of the building to allow the Emergency Management Depart to plug in a mobile generator that will run all of the electricity to the Pantry during a power outage.
The renovations also saw the installation of new bathrooms and the removal of walls to create more open space. All of the appliances were relocated to one room and the director’s office was reconfigured. A new storage closet was added as well.
New exterior and interior doors and ceiling times were installed and a fresh coat of paint was applied.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.